Luis “Campanela” Galvan makes no secret of his somewhat legendary status in Juarez, Chihuahua, Mexico.
“Did you tell them I’m a Hall of Famer?” he asks every time I have an interview for an internship. “Do they know I’m in the Hall of Fame?”
My typical response on the other end of the phone goes a little like this: “Yes, Grandpa, I have told everyone who will listen about your history and how it shaped me. But no, Grandpa, they don’t want your autograph. Do they want you to call them and tell them yourself? No, Grandpa, I think they believed me.”
My grandpa, who I know as “Campa,” short for Campanella, a nickname his newspaper editor gave him when he was a catcher for the company’s softball team, was the kind of sports journalist who also covered community, politics and everything under the newspaper sun, earning him rock-star status in the largest city in the state of Chihuahua.
Just look at the photographs and awards on his wall in the TV room, where a constant game of really boring golf always seems to be on (as a child, that was torture). There, you’ll find him writing in his little notepad in photos alongside greats like Mickey Mantle, Billy Martin, Roy Campanella and former Mexican President Jose Lopez Portillo, among others. So when I initially told my grandpa, now 78, that I was going to be a journalist, he was quite fond of the idea. A 50-year veteran, he had hours’ worth of advice, including one time when he sat me down for two hours and read a list of every single influential figure he’d interviewed.
Times were different then, he said, and you didn’t need a formal education to become a reporter (my grandpa did not make it past the eighth grade). I wonder what my grandpa’s career would have looked like had he been a journalist today. He probably wouldn’t have gotten a free membership to the country club in Juarez, where he mastered the (boring) art of golf in order to better report on the golf beat. In the world of journalism today, that would have been considered unethical by many in the newspaper business. My grandpa also probably would not have been able to show up at a newspaper and ask for a job, which he got when he was still a teenager. Today, he would have had to intern at the Post, the Sentinel and the Oregonian to possibly land some low-paying reporting job with no benefits in a town the size of a peanut. That, and he’d have to finish college, something unheard of in Campa’s hometown, where families of 13 scrape to have enough for the dinner table.
But even without all the required formal education, my grandpa would have shown up to The New York Times Student Journalism Institute and rocked the beat (no pun intended). He was the kind of reporter whose social skills made him friends (back then it wasn’t so bad if they were friends — now we’d call them sources) who stuck by him until they all started dying, which, in my wildest dreams, my grandpa will never do.
As I continue on my path in journalism today, I find myself turning to my grandpa for hints as to how to get there. Things were completely different then, but in a way, they are still the same. In the end, it’s about telling someone’s story, and this story is about my grandpa.
— Astrid Galvan