Journalist Moncho Paz is one of the founding members of www.avozdevilalba.gal, a portal specialising in Galician culture. The publication had a first stage in paper format between 1983 and 1986, during which a total of twenty-seven issues and several special issues were published. It had more than one hundred subscribers and an average circulation of five hundred copies. Among other reasons, it ceased to be published because in 1987 Moncho joined El Progreso in Vilalba, a job that he combined with his studies at the Faculty of Information Sciences in Madrid.
After several seasons in the editorial office of this newspaper in Lugo, he went on to collaborate with other media (Galicia Hoxe, Diario de Ferrol, Xornal de Galicia, A Nosa Terra and the Galician edition of El País), also participating in radio and TV talk shows. In the mid-1990s, he opted for corporate communication and became head of press for the Galician Association of Graphic Arts Businessmen. Since 1996 he has worked as director of external communication for a consultancy firm, also in charge of managing social networks.
On 5 May, the second stage of A Voz de Vilalba came to an end with the presentation of four books conceived as compilations of the texts published in avozdevilalba.gal between 2008 and 2023. Moncho Paz’s book is entitled ‘Pílulas de vendimario’ and is an anthology of 56 articles, some of which also appeared in the opinion pages of the now defunct Xornal de Galicia, published in A Coruña between 2008 and 2011 and directed by José Luis Gómez. The book presentation event was organised by the Instituto de Estudos Chairegos ‘Pena do Encanto’ and became a social celebration of the fortieth anniversary of the birth of the newspaper A Voz de Vilalba in the capital of Terra Chá.
Q.- How did the idea of the digital edition of A Voz de Vilalba come about?
A.- It was in 2008, when it was twenty-five years since its foundation. Suddenly, we thought it would be good to rescue the project, which in the first stage had achieved wide circulation, despite being a monthly publication that we three teenagers produced and which – to our surprise – made us the youngest publishers registered in the National Library of Spain. In fact, I remember that among the subscribers were figures such as the Galician writer Ramón Piñeiro, the essayist Celestino Fernández de la Vega, the historian Ramón Villares, the academic Darío Villanueva, the politicians Manuel Fraga Iribarne, Xosé María García Finca and Martín Seco Cendán, the journalism teacher Rosa Cual Martínez, the Deportivo de A Coruña player Vicente Celeiro, the theologian Xosé Chao Rego or the cardinal Ronco Varela, to mention the most significant ones. As a common denominator, almost all of them are from Vilalba or were linked in some way to Vilalba.
In 2007, with the support of the Xunta de Galicia through the Sociedad de Gestión del Xacobeo, the complete facsimile edition of the newspaper was published. The volume, with a foreword by Ramón Villares -later president of the Consello de la Cultura Galega- included an extensive introductory study and the contributions of the philosopher Antón Baamonde, the teacher Xosé González Barcia and the former editors of the publication who accompanied me in that adventure, Paulo Naseiro and my brother Mario. This encouraged them to revive the newspaper a year later in a digital version, specialising in cultural content; after obtaining the PuntoGal domain for Galicia, we were part of the group of pioneers of this initiative. Now the second stage has come to an end. And as I am not nostalgic, but rather looking forward, we will see what happens in the coming months… In any case, I would like to say that my commitment to the .gal domain is still intact and I am currently working on several cultural projects. Among them, the documentary ‘El camino de Prisciliano’, directed by Aser Álvarez (Arraianos Produccións), which we will present at the Cervantes Institute in Paris on May 23rd; on the other hand, I finished a series of chronicles (‘El mundo del Chavito’) about Vilalba and the emigration of the Chairegas to Cuba, which are a tribute to my father and my grandfather, a republican merchant who died in 1960 and whom I never met.
Q.- Why did you decide to produce a newspaper in our language?
A.- Out of conviction and commitment. The official date of the foundation of A Voz de Vilalba (29th June 1983) almost coincided with the approval in the Galician Parliament of the Law of Linguistic Normalisation, which had taken place a few days earlier that same month, on 15th June. This is no coincidence if we bear in mind that, from the very moment of its appearance, A Voz de Vilalba was a symbol of the standardised use of a language and its extension to all spheres of everyday life, as opposed to the idea of being limited, in a diglossic way, to a field linked exclusively to the traditional. The consolidation of the publication as a small reference in the task of building a favourable cultural environment and the necessary signs of identity for the community in those years of political transition was undoubtedly helped by the world press exhibition that we organised in the summer of 1985, in close collaboration with Xosé Sánchez Domínguez, a newspaper collector from A Coruña, which had an enormous impact, as it was covered by a large number of media in our community.
Q.- A brief summary of your history and main activities during this time.
A.- There were several decisive events in the history of La Voz de Vilalba: the interview we did with Manuel Fraga in 1983, when he was leader of the opposition in Madrid, which put us on the media map at the time; and the press exhibition I mentioned earlier, in which we displayed a bunch of newspapers and magazines, both from Spain and abroad. They were all original and from different historical periods: the promulgation of the Statute of Galicia in 1936; the Civil War, with publications from both sides; the Second World War; the Cuban Revolution and the subsequent assassination of Che Guevara in Bolivia; the Revolução dos Clavos in Portugal; the death of Franco, the approval of the 1978 Constitution or the attempted coup of 23-F, were some of the most significant news items that appeared in its pages. The “1st World Press Exhibition” was officially inaugurated on 30 August 1985 by the then president of the Xunta de Galicia, Xerardo Fernández Albor. And thirty years later, on 28 August 2015, another important event in our trajectory was when we appointed Ramón Luis Chao Rego (1935-2018), a writer from Vilalba living in Paris and father of Antoine and Manu Chao, as honorary president, in gratitude for his contributions and for his selfless collaboration with our cultural project during the last years. I recognise Ramón as one of my intellectual references, we maintained a very close relationship for many years and I was lucky that he had counted on me to create the Friends of Prisciliano Association, which we started in 2012 as a cultural collective and legally constituted as a legal entity ten years later, on 28 December 2022.
Q.- What are your plans for the future, where do you want to go?
A.- In 2023 we are celebrating the fortieth anniversary of the foundation of A Voz de Vilalba and we would like our project to have been recognised as a reference in the defence of linguistic normalisation throughout this time; during the second stage we formed part of the Association of Media in Galician and at present we are still committed to Galician language and culture through our presence on the board of directors of the PuntoGal Association. We also highly value the collaboration we have maintained with the Instituto de Estudios Chairegos, since its foundation in 2002.
Q.- Why did you choose A Voz de Vilalba as the masthead?
A.- We wanted to continue the journalistic tradition of Vilalba, choosing a masthead name that had not existed before. The first third of the 20th century was very prolific in publications. In 1902 a first handwritten newspaper appeared, Ideal Villalbés, a flyer created by the versatile Antonio García Hermida, who would later participate in other publishing ventures, such as Heraldo de Vilalba, in 1916. In between, other initiatives appeared, such as El Eco de Vilalba, in 1908, El Ratón (1910), El Vigía Vilalbés (1913), Azul y Blanco (1914), Villalba y su Comarca (1915) and Galicia Pintoresca (1916).
And after Heraldo, the saga continued with A Justicia y Aurora (1918), El Gato (1919) -El Ratón took nine years to find a follower-, Lana Voz Villalbesa (1921), Él Progreso Vilalbés (1922), created by the active immigrant from Cádiz José Enríquez Chanot, who had directed Galicia Pintoresca and had been editor of El Gato; El Villalbés (1923), with its continuation in El Villalbés de Buenos Aires (1927) – the press also emigrated -, Lana Unión Ciudadana (1929) and Faro Villalbés (1932), where the award-winning poet Carmiña Prieto Ronco collaborated. After the Civil War, the journalistic fervour disappeared and only two publications were founded: Stadium (1949) and El Castillo (1950).
Q.- What does the .gal domain offer you?
A.- A feeling of identification and belonging to Galician culture, which we always claim and which is the heritage of all of us, which is why the motto of A Voz de Vilalba – since its foundation – has been “newspaper at the service of the people”.