When sports journalist Rigoberto “Rigo” Cervantez talks about his colleague Fernando Páramo, memories begin to flow easily. One of them is when Páramo, who was a notable editor of Deportes de La Opinión, gave Cervantez the green light to create a character during the coverage of the 1986 World Cup in Mexico.
“Juanito was a boy who sold gum and found us at the airport,” says Cervantez. It was about a boy who sneaked into the World Cup stadiums, who knew the neighborhoods of Mexico City perfectly and who was 16 years old because he was born in 1970 as a “mascot” of the first World Cup in Mexico.
“Juanito represented a vision of the Mexico of influence, of the poor, of social injustice, of all that,” explains Cervantez. “Juanito became as popular as if he were a World Cup character, and it turned out that when the coverage of Juanito ended, people followed him and wanted to set up a collection to send him money… He came to life.”
The story of Juanito in the pages of La Opinión is one of many that united Cervantez and other journalists of the time in southern California for many years with Fernando Páramo, who died this Sunday in Los Angeles as a result of lung cancer after being hospitalized six days earlier. He was almost 70 years old.
Born in Uruapan, Michoacán, Fernando Páramo was a complete journalist. In addition to being the second sports editor of La Opinión and a well-liked columnist, he made a career as a sportscaster in Los Angeles arenas and stadiums, including winning awards, and also worked as a producer, publicist and even a boxing promoter.
His arrival as sports editor of La Opinión in early 1984 helped the newspaper grow considerably.. He accepted that position left vacant after the retirement of the illustrious editor Rudy García, but he put his conditions, including hiring Cervantez to help him with soccer coverage.
“I think that his legacy was to have made an opening to football, give it more coverage, which was a bit forgotten,” says Cervantez. “That also gave the newspaper a lot of relevance in a market like Los Angeles, which at that time already had a lot of Mexicans, a lot of Latin Americans, Central Americans, and all of them soccer fans.”
Cervantez, in his voice a long-lived and successful sports journalist, says that the expanded coverage of soccer, including the visit of teams to the region, helped the newspaper’s daily circulation go from 60,000 or 70,000 to more than 120,000 or 140,000.
“He was a journalist with a very special personality and ideology, very different, and one that fit in well with the moment that La Opinión lived at that time. for coverage and monitoring of the news and sports personalities”, says Cervantez.
Those characters included Julio César Chávez, whom Páramo covered extensively from its inception. The journalist worked countless boxing nights at the Olympic Auditorium, the Sports Arena and the Forum in Inglewood.
“He was sarcastic, he was sharp in his columns, he was incisive, he was brave, he was harsh in his comments,” says Cervantez.
“Everything can be forgiven, except boredom”
José Fuentes, a journalist who worked with Páramo for more than 20 years at La Opinión and the popular weekly Impacto USA, thinks that what distinguished Páramo most was his ability to capture the excitement and joy of sports in his articlesknowing how to leave behind the excessively long narrative of other times.
“We discussed with him that everything can be forgiven, except boredom,” says Fuentes, alluding to conversations with his colleague outside the La Opinión offices across from Pershing Square in downtown Los Angeles. “As a Michoacán, he knew perfectly the language with which people like to communicate, their mentality, and he was well informed.”
Fuentes kept clippings of newspaper articles in an album, including some from Páramo, such as an October 1995 column prior to a boxing match between the Mexican Leonardo Aguilar and the Japanese Yosuke Nishijima at the Forum.
“I,” said the Asian, with all the seriousness in the world, “I mentally strengthen myself by meditating in the tranquility of the mountain… I carry large stones on the slopes of that mountain and I uproot in my training,” the printed column reads. “Later, the contrast would come: I -started the cachanilla, laughing happily- eat tortillas and beans with chili and that gives me strength“.
Páramo knew boxing and sports deeply, but knowing how to make them interesting and fun was one of his great virtues.
“Boxing was one of his great passions and when the heyday of boxing in Las Vegas began with Julio César Chávez, Fernando did not miss a fight in Las Vegas; He was passionate about Las Vegas and he was passionate about boxing, ”recalls Cervantez, his partner in a thousand battles along with others such as“ Chiquilín ”García, Ricardo Jiménez and Carlos Alvarado.
One of the great notables of Páramo in boxing was when he had to be part of the HBO narration of the historic fight between Marvin Hagler and Thomas Hearns in 1985. The chronicler worked perfectly in English.
A sports journalist who paved the way for others
Páramo not only knew how to entertain his audience, but also had a positive impact on many young immigrants at the time, including some future communicators.
“When I came to the United States, he was one of my inspirations,” admits Eduard Cauich, current reporter and editor for the Los Angeles Times en Español. “It was the beginning of the 90s, there was no internet, there was not everything we have today. When you arrive in this country, you don’t know English or anything, so you look for what’s available [en espanol] and he was one of the faces and voices I met.”
For Cauich, Páramo’s legacy is that “it paved the way for many of us Latinos in the media, I think it broke many barriers that we perhaps do not understand today.
Andrés Cantor, the most famous football chronicler in the United States, shares that opinion, as he told La Opinón in a recent interview.
“For me growing up in Los Angeles, La Opinión was the bible of sports. There was no internet, there was no way to find out about soccer news,” said the Telemundo Deportes narrator, who admired the work of Páramo, Cervantez and photojournalist “Chiquilín” García.
Mauricio Sulaimán, president of the World Boxing Council, regretted the bad news. “It is with deep sadness that I learn of the departure of a great person from the boxing community,” he wrote on Twitter.
– Ricardo Jiménez, from reporter and editor for La Opinión to notable boxing publicist with Top Rank
– “Chiquilín”, the illustrious photojournalist for La Opinión who was like the eyes of the community in LA
– Talk with Enrique “Perro” Bermúdez: “I thought I was going to die without seeing Atlas champion”