Geronimo Story Reaches Latin America and Beyond

Rick Kearns
5/9/11

News of the offensive use of Geronimo's name has traveled throughout the Latin American and Spanish-speaking world, including postings in indigenous newspapers and news websites.

From May 3 to May 9, the story of how U.S. authorities used the name of Apache leader Geronimo to denote the Saudi terrorist Osama bin Laden appeared in at least three indigenous news portals, newspapers in 10 Latin American countries, two large newspapers in Spain and three Spanish language publications in the United States.

While the Geronimo-related headlines were easily found in the above mentioned list, it is also likely that this story was seen by readers in all 21 Spanish-speaking countries due to the story being carried by both EFE—which is the largest Spanish language press service in the world also used by broadcast media—and the France Press Agency or AFP which also reaches most Spanish (and French) speaking countries. The only exception to these categories would be the article in Portuguese that appeared in the Jornal da Tarde, a large daily paper in Sao Paulo, Brazil.

The indigenous Latin American news outlets included: the Azkintuwe newspaper  that focuses on issues affecting Mapuches in Chile and Argentina; the international web portal Servindi and the International Indigenous Press Agency website or AIPIN, both of which are based in Peru but have readers in at least 15 countries.

While all of the pieces on the list included phrases that described anger and dismay throughout Indian country, there were significant differences in the length of the pieces as well as in the people chosen for quotes.

Azkintuwe ran two articles on the topic, one a longer news story that, as with most of the coverage was very critical of U.S. policy in this issue, included quotes from Loretta Tuell, staff director and chief counsel for the Senate Indian Affairs Committee, and Indian Country Today Media Network columnist Steven Newcomb, as well as a separate background history on Geronimo that featured comments from Kathryn Westcott, a contemporary Mideast correspondent for the BBC.

Quotes from Newcomb can be found in five of the articles, most of which specify ICTMN and, in the Azkintuwe news piece, ICTMN is described as “perhaps the main Native American newspaper.” The Azkintuwe article was then reprinted on the AIPIN website.

The shorter story that appeared in Servindi was also a reprint. The piece first appeared in Cubadebate, a pro-government news publication based in Cuba. The Cubadebate story was comprised of quotes found in many articles that originated in the U.S., and included a summary history of Geronimo’s life.

The AFP article did not delve into as much historical background but included quotes from Suzan Shown Harjo of the Morning Star Institute, Ariz. State Rep. Albert Hale, descendant Harlyn Geronimo, Pres. of the Jicarilla Apache Levi Pesata, actor Chaske Spencer, and actor/athlete Jim Warne. This longer piece appeared in newspapers in Paraguay, Uruguay and Venezuela.

The remaining Geronimo articles were featured in newspapers in Chile, Colombia, Spain, Brazil and Argentina. Two of the largest Spanish language dailies in New York City and Houston, Texas ran short articles translated from a U.S. based news service, and it appeared in a smaller Latino site in Florida.

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