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Nacho Lozano--'As Chicano as American Pie'

December 05, 1987|LYNN SMITH | Times Staff Writer

Nacho Lozano is coming home.

Every morning for the past 30 years he has left Lido Isle for Los Angeles, where he published La Opinion--the oldest and largest Spanish-language newspaper in the nation--and where he sits on the boards of some of the city's most prestigious corporate, cultural and philanthropic institutions: Bank of America, the Walt Disney Company, California Community Foundation, KCET and National Public Radio.

For a brief nine months in 1976, Lozano was U.S. ambassador to El Salvador.

But last year, Lozano, now 60, semiretired and turned La Opinion over to his son, Jose. Although he still commutes every day to the paper, setting policy as editor-in-chief, he is slowly reconnecting to Orange County and to his roots.

"I've been 'the Latino' on enough mainstream community organizations," Lozano says. "It's time I devoted more attention to things that interest me as a Latino, things that show an interest in the Latino community and culture."

Lozano this year became a director of the Orange County Performing Arts Center. He also joined the board of the South Coast Repertory Theater and chaired the 10-member advisory board for its two-year-old Hispanic Playwrights Project--"the only effort (in the United States) being made to expose Hispanic playwrights to mainstream theater on a formalized basis."

The playwrights project has aided 15 Latino writers in developing their talents through workshops, seminars and readings. It has also helped them make contacts with mainstream theaters. Two plays, "Charley Bacon and His Family" by Arthur Giron and Lisa Loomer's "Birds," were produced last year for general audiences at SCR.

Two others were produced elsewhere as a result of exposure through the project's workshops. As chairman, Lozano "really gave us credibility," says Jose Gonzalez, director of the Hispanic Playwrights Project. "The man is very good. He's wonderful in terms of asking questions about the program, helping us make contact with the community and with funding institutions. He is very supportive."

"No one (else) was willing to take a risk," says Lozano. "Now people in New Mexico, San Diego and San Francisco are coming to see what is being written."

Private and unassuming, Lozano is known to most as Nacho, the Spanish nickname for his formal name, Ignacio. It was also the name of his father--a Mexican immigrant "with ink in his veins," a hard worker who bequeathed his son a business that would become a publishing dynasty, bringing him a more than comfortable livelihood and a purpose in life.

The elder Ignacio Lozano fled the prerevolutionary turmoil of Nuevo Leon, Mexico, for San Antonio, where he met his wife and founded a political weekly, La Prensa, in 1913.

Lozano remembers his father as a dedicated journalist, going back to the office every night after dinner to await the first edition. Other Mexican immigrants supported the paper, which opposed the revolution of 1910. The senior Lozano earned enough to put his son and daughter through private schools.

In 1926, the elder Lozano founded La Opinion in Los Angeles, where a wave of newly arrived Mexicans could choose from among nearly a dozen Spanish-language newspapers.

Nacho Lozano never questioned his future. Though he considered himself neither as dedicated a publisher nor as talented a writer as his father, he knew that he would study journalism (at the University of Notre Dame) and that, when his father died, he would take over the business.

Luckily for the Lozanos, Latinos continued to flock to Southern California, more than doubling their numbers in 1970-80. In 1977-86, La Opinion's circulation grew from 22,000 to 70,000.

Latinos now constitute one-third of the population in Los Angeles County, and nearly one-fifth in Orange and San Bernardino counties. By the year 2,010, an estimated 7.8 million Latinos will make up a majority--52%--of Southern California's population. "Who could have predicted such migration into this area over the years?" Lozano asks.

In 1957, Lozano moved his family from Brentwood to Lido Isle, a sun-dappled and yachted enclave of Newport Beach. Orange County then offered a more wholesome environment for raising children, he says, than it now does.

He belongs to the Newport Harbor Yacht Club, collects art, plays golf and vacations in Mazatlan, Hawaii and Spain. The Lozanos usually spend holidays in Mexico City, where Lozano's sister lives.

With brown eyes ringed with blue, Lozano calls himself "as Chicano as apple pie," meaning he has assimilated into the community while retaining his cultural ties.

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