Joe Garza, a respected publisher of numerous newspapers and magazines in the Edinburg area, has achieved the American Dream the old-fashioned way - he earned it. Born in Nuevo León, Mexico, Garza, who publishes the Edinburg Star, Valley Politics Magazine, and Success Magazine, among others, traveled as a young boy with his family to the United States in 1965, a journey that has seen him become a symbol of success in this nation of immigrants.
“With the unwavering support of his wife, Janie González Garza, and his three children, Cassandra, Ismael, and Sarah, Joe Garza has truly helped to make lasting and invaluable contributions to the South Texas community,” says Rep. Aaron Peña, D-Edinburg.
In a legislative proclamation carried by Peña in 2003, the 150-member Texas House of Representatives commended Garza “on his many significant contributions benefiting the Lower Rio Grande Valley community, including his support for local chapters of the American Heart Association, Boys and Girls Clubs of America, and Veterans of Foreign Wars, as well as the Edcouch-Elsa Lions Club, an organization Mr. Garza served as president in 2000.”
Garza is approaching his 14th year anniversary in the take-no-prisoner world of newspapers and magazines, serving as owner of Lone Star Publishing, a business he launched on July 27, 1993.
"Joe epitomizes the American success story. His hard work and strong desire to better his lot in life have resulted in greater gains for him and his family and for our community,” said Rep. Verónica González, D-McAllen.
Almost a decade-and-a-half later, Garza is still a key player in local publishing, while dozens of other competitors, who sometimes came to the arena with more financial resources, have come, and long gone.
“There will always be newspapers with more money, flashier graphics, and larger staffs, but that's fine by me,” Garza said. “They are not going to work harder or smarter than me.”
Garza is no stranger to the peaks and valleys of life.He spent much of his childhood working as a migrant farm laborer in fields across the United States.
He later served as a field radio operator in the United States Marine Corps, First Marine Division, an experience that Garza has never forgotten.
“No matter what anyone says, the United States is the best country in the world - period,” Garza said. “I joined the Marines because I felt the best way to thank this nation for taking in my family and me was to be willing and prepared to defend it against anyone who would threaten our precious freedoms and liberties.”
His ability to not be intimidated comes from the intense training Garza received as a Marine, observed Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, D-McAllen, himself a fellow Marine, from an earlier generation, who saw combat as a squad leader in Vietnam.
“Joe Garza served our nation as a Marine, then protected our communities as a police officer with the skills, integrity, and courage he developed as a Marine,” said Hinojosa. “As President Reagan once put it, 'Some people spend an entire lifetime wondering if they made a difference in the world. But, the Marines don't have that problem.' That pretty much sums up the life of Joe Garza.”
After his patriotic duty, Garza would go on to join the Elsa Police Department in 1979 before attending the Harlingen Police Academy, where he graduated with full honors and earned his law enforcement certification. He went on to become a deputy constable for the Delta area, serving citizens in the communities of Edcouch, Elsa, La Villa, La Blanca, Monte Alto, and Hargill.
He honed his many skills and education, including continuing completing additional training in civil process, accident investigation, narcotics investigation, and firearms instruction.
Even when he decided to venture into publishing, he was years ahead of the curve by deciding to focus on the world of free community newspapers, distributing them to restaurants, convenience stores, and key local business offices for anyone to pick up and take home.
Newspapers that charged a price would arrogantly look down upon free newspapers, claiming that any publication that was given away couldn't possibly have any value.But, how times have changed.
One-hundred-channel cable and satellite television, numerous 24-hour-per-day news channels, changing lifestyles, the rise of the Internet, and growing distrust of the major media outlets have siphoned away countless readers from the so-called Mainstream Media.
Although the Internet is not expected to spell the end of the major dailies, the majority of those papers' paid circulation continues to slowly decrease.
A new generation of readers, who make the Internet their main source of information, have become used to getting their news content at no cost from those papers' on-line versions or from literally hundreds of other news outlets in cyberspace.
As a result, a large segment of those younger readers, who are in their 20s and 30s and represent the future of newspapers' audiences, now want to get their print newspapers free as well.
Equally important, the talent pool of journalists and photojournalists for the free community newspapers rivals those of even the largest news media outlets. Top-notch writers and photographers who formerly worked for the mainstream media have been picked up by government and business, with higher pay and better benefits.And guess where their stories and shots wind up?
In free community newspapers, such as the Edinburg Star, which receive dozens of news releases and photographs every week at no charge, packaged as well as any article in the larger daily newspapers.
“I look at every story we receive very closely, and if it features local personalities and local issues that are important to Edinburg, we will probably run it, in one form or another, because more often than not, the big dailies down here will ignore them,” Garza said.
He has a circulation team that helps distribute the Edinburg Star, which he estimates is read by thousands of residents.But he is most proud of being able to symbolize the people's access to their newspaper.
“How often can you pick up a local newspaper at your favorite restaurant or in your office, and have the publisher come ask you what you think, or what you want to see in it?” Garza asked.
“My family and I live in Edinburg, we spend our money in Edinburg, we know the people of this great city. We owe our loyalties to Edinburg, not to some faceless corporation hundreds or thousands of miles away.”
Eventually, the Internet revolution may lead Garza to also publish on-line versions of his print newspapers, where longer stories, such as investigative reports, or a photo gallery of key events, can be run in their entirety.
But for the time being, Garza simply enjoys too much the hands-on feel of the printing press and the paper format.
“I take my responsibility to inform the public so seriously, that I would rather publish than eat,” says Garza, the tone of his voice suggesting that he means what he says.
That sounds about right, reflected Hinojosa, whose stories are often found in Garza's print outlets.
“Given his love for our nation, our communities, and especially for our working families, Joe probably eats, sleeps and breathes red, white and blue,” Hinojosa said. “That's what we have come to expect, since inside the veins of Joe Garza flows the blood of an American warrior.”