Victor Cuenca, founder of Providence en Español, has died

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – Victor H. Cuenca, who founded Providence’s first Spanish language weekly newspaper before moving his publication completely online in 2013, has died. He was 51.

Cuenca’s death was confirmed by a family friend.

“I’ve not known many people who had the zest for life Victor had,” City Council President Luis Aponte said, referring to Cuenca’s favorite hobby, skydiving. “He will be sorely missed.”

Cuenca launched Providence en Español in 1999 with the goal of providing a consistent print publication to the city’s fastest growing demographic. At its peak, the paper printed 25,000 copies a week and reached more than 70,000 readers. After moving the product to the web, Cuenca would boast that the paper’s Facebook page had nearly 75,000 likes.

Providence en Español chronicled the downfall of former Mayor Buddy Cianci and the rise to power of Latino political leaders like Aponte, state Rep. Grace Diaz, former state Sen. Juan Pichardo and Angel Taveras, who became the first Latino to be elected mayor of Providence in 2010.

The paper won two Metcalf Awards for diversity in the media in Rhode Island and Cuenca was a three-time recipient of the National Association of Hispanic Publishers’ Excellence in Journalism Award.

“For a long time printed newspapers would come and go in our community,” Aponte said. “And publications would have a particular bent. With Victor’s paper, whether you liked the story or you didn’t there was no agenda. It was reporting the events of the day.”

Born in Bolivia, Cuenca lived in North Providence for many years with his wife, Vivian, and their two daughters. He enjoyed sharing tales about his skydiving expeditions and was considered one of the city’s most astute political observers. Cuenca also owned a marketing firm.

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Dan McGowan ( dmcgowan@wpri.com ) covers politics, education and the city of Providence for WPRI.com. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter: @danmcgowan