Notícías Montaña brings trusted news to Spanish speakers in Big Sky, establishes equitable access to community
By Bella Butler MANAGING EDITOR
BIG SKY – Since learning her first word of English, Samantha Suazo has been serving the Spanish speakers in Big Sky by connecting them with information. Seven years after learning those first words, she’s built a trusted news source she hopes can be the foundation for more connection, not only to information, but to community.
Proportionately, Big Sky’s Hispanic population exceeds that of both Madison and Gallatin counties as well as the state, yet Suazo learned through individuals’ stories that this population was underserved in Big Sky when it came to communication. Suazo launched Notícías Montaña, or Mountain News, in 2020 to provide the Latino community in Big Sky and the greater Gallatin County with news, connect them with resources and tell their stories.
Suazo, now 19 and a senior at Lone Peak High School, moved with her parents from Honduras to the U.S. in 2014, first to New York and eventually to Big Sky. As a 12-year-old, it was the first time she was surrounded by people who didn’t speak her native tongue.
“Once I arrived here, it became my goal to learn to speak English because my parents didn’t know how to speak English,” she said. “Somehow we had to get around town and I was the only one in school. So, it was kind of my responsibility to become that connection for my family to the outside world.”
As she learned English, Suazo quickly became a resource for other Spanish speakers in Big Sky, translating in court rooms, at the school and the hospital, among other places, not out of obligation but out of service.
“Everywhere I went I would also serve a bigger community … get around and really try to get through the needs that they have,” she said. “Once I started speaking the first word of English and started using it … it became kind of like a growing community around me that needed more help.”
In 2020, Suazo took an internship at the Lone Peak Lookout through the Big Sky Youth Corps. Over the course of a summer, she was charged with identifying an underrepresented community within Big Sky to report on. For two months, Suazo told stories for and about Big Sky’s Hispanic community, reporting on everything from immigration experiences to profiles to translation resources.
In connecting with these sources during the reporting process, she began asking people where they got their information. Their response: they didn’t know.
“From that, I realized, wow, there’s a lack of information and that’s a real problem,” she said.
In November 2020, Suazo published a story in the Lookout announcing the creation of Notícías Montaña.
“I have again and again learned about three crucial factors which impact the Latino experience: the power of connection, the lack of information, and the challenge of communication,” Suazo wrote in the announcement. “My conclusion from my reporting: A local information system for Spanish speakers could be the most impactful way to help Latinos succeed.”
Today, Suazo estimates that Notícías Montaña reaches 2,000 readers, delivering news written in Spanish on community resources, events and individuals. By providing Spanish readers access to the same news English readers have, Suazo believes that Notícías Montaña is uniting all parts of Big Sky through common news that impacts everyone.
“I think that specifically here in Big Sky,” she said, “this is one of the things as a community we’re trying to establish [is] that everybody is part of the community, we’re all welcome here, and Notícías Montaña has also served as the bridge to unite both of us together.”
Renata Garrett, who is originally from Mexico City but has lived in Big Sky now for five years, is one of Notícías Montaña’s loyal readers.
“[For] a lot of the communities, it’s the way they know what’s happening here,” Garrett said. “All the programs, the great advice, the great news. So yeah, it’s important for the Spanish-speaking community.”
Garrett currently works at the Big Sky School District as a liaison between the school and parents who don’t speak English. Recently, Garrett partnered with Suazo to translate the school’s newsletter to Spanish and publish it in Notícías Montaña.
This addition has looped Spanish-speaking families, Garrett said, into important dates and events at the school they may otherwise have been unaware of.
In addition to creating Notícías Montaña, Suazo also started a Spanish club at the high school as well as an initiative called GLAM, or Great Leaders Achieving More, which collects clothing donations on an annual basis to send back to Honduras.
This spring, Suazo will graduate from LPHS vand plans to continue her studies in college but is undecided where. She and the Notícías Montaña’s editor, local Barbara Rowley, are currently working on what the future of Notícías Montaña will look like, but Suazo hopes she’s built a solid foundation with the work she’s started. More so, she hopes she’s inspired the Spanish-speaking community in Big Sky.
“People have seen that … anything is possible if you really put your mind to it,” she said,” [and that] has served as an example for other Latinos, other Spanish speakers who have arrived here in the community, to do the same.”