Hispanic Heritage Month is celebrated from September 15 to October 15. It is a time to focus on sharing stories and providing opportunities to increase understanding and acceptance of the Hispanic community as TD Bank honors their vital contributions.
Like many Boston Celtic fans, then 13-year-old Alberto Vasallo III celebrated heartily when his team won the NBA finals in 1981. But unlike any other fan, his celebration included his first column in a newspaper, El Mundo Boston.
That started Alberto on his life's journey at El Mundo Boston, a Spanish-language newspaper founded by his father in 1972. After that first article, Alberto wrote a weekly column for several years.
"At first, it was just like another writing assignment, like another essay for English class but my father made it very attractive when he got me a press pass to go to Fenway and interview the (Red Sox) players," said Alberto, who became President and CEO of El Mundo Boston when his father retired in 2013.
Today, El Mundo Boston is a leading Latino multimedia company in New England. The weekly print edition continues to come out each Thursday, but it has been surpassed by the company's other media properties, which are bi-lingual, including digital publishing, broadcasting and large-scale event business. El Mundo Boston is a TD Bank customer.
The mission never changes
El Mundo Boston has staked out a different path to success in today’s media world, where seemingly the most controversial and opinionated voices often win out.
“We remember what our mission is, we're not there to give opinions,” Alberto said. “Many media outlets have kind of swayed politically, one way or the other. Our windows stayed open in the middle. We are here to inform and give both sides. We let the readers decide. That's what has given us the most credibility.”
The media company reports on a wide-range of pertinent information for the Latino community that can include anything from the closing of the major tunnel in the city for repairs, passport issues, in-state college tuition changes, the Covid-19 vaccine, and countless others.
El Mundo Boston has been one of New England’s most trusted media voices for the past 51 years. The family-run business was started by Alberto Vasallo Jr., who was born in Havana, Cuba.
While its core mission has remained the same, El Mundo Boston has evolved tremendously since its early days. At that time, the publication was laser-focused on Boston and its Latino communities, which were primarily Puerto Rican, Dominican and Cuban.
As the Latino community became more diverse with growing populations from Columbia, Guatemala, El Salvador, Venezuela and other countries, the newspaper expanded its coverage. It’s also expanded geographically as the Latino community increasingly has been moving to suburbs outside of Boston and west to the Worcester area.
Alberto always embraced the different cultures while growing up in Boston as the son of his Cuban father and mother Flor, who was born in Ecuador.
“I’ve seen the different communities come through the figurative door,” he explained. “But when I go to a ceremony for Venezuelans, Columbians, Puerto Ricans or any other community, I am embraced like one of their own, even though the situation and history of each country is different. So are the skin tones and political ideology. I always say when you get five Latinos in a room, you can have six different opinions."
As the Internet grew in importance, El Mundo built up its digital content. Alberto looked at this not as a challenge, but a major opportunity.
“There's only so much you can print, but there's so much more you do daily on our website and social media platforms and our daily morning show,” he said.
Alberto is excited about the future of El Mundo Boston. He notes that while other media companies have decreasing market sizes, the Latino community is rapidly growing.
"My market size is going to be increasing for the next 20 years -- that's what every demographic report says," Alberto said. " So, my challenge or my opportunity is how fast or where or how do I want to grow."
The best classroom is real life experience
Alberto is proud to be a "Triple Eagle" Boston College graduate, receiving degrees from a Boston College High School, Boston College and an honorary doctorate from BC.
But he feels that some of the best lessons he learned were his real-life experience, which included having to lead when the newspaper's offices in Cambridge were flooded shortly before his freshman year at BC and his father was away in the Dominican Republic.
"We got five feet of water," he said. "So, at 17, I had to step in and spearhead a clean out. After that, I never looked back. Since that moment, El Mundo Boston became my priority in my professional life."
He recalled a time at Boston College when the professor asked what's the first thing you should do when you are trying to sell something. Alberto had a different perspective based on his own experience.
"Find out the name and title and their phone number of who is in charge, " he told the class. You break that barrier, and the person will know you did a little bit of homework. That is the way to build a relationship."
TD Bank experience
"When it comes to delivering a message, making a statement or ensuring a community has clarification on resources available to them, Alberto Vassallo, III is that community leader," said Chris Sylvestre, TD's Retail Market Manager of the Greater Boston Region. "I had the pleasure of meeting Alberto 12 years ago, and he continues to model what community involvement should look like from all walks of life.
"As a leader in the financial industry, working with El Mundo has helped me understand the Hispanic communities' needs around financial education, CRA (Community Reinvestment Act) opportunities and small business development. Alberto and I continue to collaborate and bounce ideas off each other to ensure we are truly giving back as much as we can!"
Alberto became a customer of TD Bank in Chelsea two years ago, and he believes it is a "superior" experience.
"Everybody has to do business with a bank," he said. "We're going to choose the bank that we like. I love the service, and I love the people when I go to the store. I like to do business with people that I like."