By Maria E. Garcia
Fanny Miller is the owner of El Latino, the largest Spanish language newspaper in the United States. Today, El Latino is one of the top ten Latino newspapers nationwide and the only Latino newspaper in California owned by a woman. In 2018 she started a new venture, Celebrando Latinas, a magazine about issues that are important to women in the Latino Community.
Fanny is very open about her childhood in Colombia. In her youth she lived with both of her parents and was rather happy. Her father was a businessman and owned various hotels. Fanny describes the hotels as, “some were very nice and some not so nice.”
Fanny’s mother, Carmen, had been abused by her mother and violence was a part of her mothers’ daily life. By contrast, her green-eyed father was rather spoiled by his mother. Carmen was never accepted by her fathers’ family. At the age of thirteen, Carmen went to live with Fanny’s father, who was twenty-one. Sadly, Fanny’s grandfather so disapproved of this union that he would not speak to his grandchildren. Even on a trip to the United States, when the grandmother and grandfather brought the kids to live with her aunt, he did not speak to them. Fanny remembers fearing him and she did not really have a conversation with him until she was older.
Coming from an abused household and being married to an abusive husband made life very difficult for Carmen. She suffered from depression and was not always available to guide her children. Fanny says she lived in some of the worst neighborhoods in Bogotá. As a little girl, she was sexually molested, and Fanny admits she has blocked many of her memories of her life in Bogotá completely out of her head. She does remember attending two different schools there.
Fanny says she believes that her father was using regularly was marijuana; however, since he was such a violent person, he could have been abusing stronger drugs. Fanny says plates or knives would be thrown back and forth between her parents. Her father always carried a gun. One of her stronger memories is of her father and grandmother arguing and him threatening to kill them all, then kill himself. Fear and violence were part of their daily life. She remembers being happy when the family split up.
Her grandmother had asked her daughter (also named Fanny Miller) to take the kids to live with them. Mrs. Miller lived in Carlsbad, California. Fanny remembers the children flew to Florida with their grandparents. From Miami they took a Greyhound bus to San Diego, where Mr. Miller, her uncle by marriage, brought them to Carlsbad. She remembers that Mr. Miller was a very nice person. One of Fanny’s brothers was already living with them. The Miller family took Fanny and her three siblings in, and eventually the Millers adopted all of their nieces and nephews.
Mrs. Miller, Fanny’s aunt, took the children to the Mormon Church where Fanny felt completely out of place. She remembers that the other kids did not speak or play with them. She says she is not sure if they didn’t try to befriend them because they didn’t speak English or because they were “different.” In junior high, Fanny was placed in English as a Second Language class and was soon told by the teacher that she spoke too much English to be there.
By the age of fifteen, Fanny had a boyfriend. The boy was Mexican and came from the Carlsbad barrio. Fanny says their relationship was innocent and that her aunt’s disapproval was because he was Mexican. Her aunt sent her to live with a family in Utah, Janice Miller and her family, whom she says were very nice to her. Fanny’s older sister Carmen was also living in Utah, but Aunt Fanny had given orders that Fanny was not to see any members of her family. Fanny says she was lonely and that the most difficult part was missing her sisters.
The sister of her Carlsbad boyfriend sent her a plane ticket to return to San Diego. When Fanny returned to San Diego, she lived with her boyfriend’s family in Oceanside. She says they were also very nice to her, but they wanted the couple to marry immediately and to have children. Fanny wanted to finish school and further her education first. She was attending Carlsbad High School, but ending up dropping out. At the age of seventeen she went to work for a computer company.
In 1988, at the age of twenty-one, Fanny and six other people decided to start a newspaper. Four of the six were family members and the other two were friends. Somehow, they raised fifteen thousand dollars and opened El Latino. Within six months, only Fanny and her sister were left to run the newspaper. The main office was located in Oceanside and the newspaper was bi-weekly. In 1992, the office moved to the city of Chula Vista. In 1994, her sister also decided to leave.
When Fanny was thirty-eight and living what she describes as the perfect life, a friend told Fanny she thought Fanny was depressed. Fanny had not seen herself as depressed, but she started searching within herself and realized she was depressed as well as overweight. She was so busy taking care of her family and her business that she was basically drained of energy. This began her journey of reading about depression and attending workshops and seminars to learn more about the condition.
Fanny felt a lot of anxiety about dealing with her biological father. As part of the healing process, she returned to Colombia and confronted him about some of the things that had happened. He ignored her feelings, saying that her upbringing was her mother’s responsibility. When he passed away, his family called her and asked if she wanted to say something to him. Her response was no and she did not speak to him.
Fanny had a much better relationship with her biological mother, Carmen. In 1982, Carmen walked over the mountains between Tijuana and the United States. The second time Carmen crossed, she used a passport from a woman that had died. At first, there was a lot of arguing between mother and daughter. As Fanny understood what her mother had been through and had a better understanding of depression, their relationship improved. In 1992, Carmen was diagnosed with lung cancer. Right before her death, Fanny arranged for her mother to receive a passport. Her death wish was to return to Colombia. Carmen got her wish and her funeral was held in Colombia.
In 1995, Fanny met Carlos, who is the father of her three sons. She describes Carlos as a good man and a good father. Today, Fanny is the mother of six children. Her three boys, Ruben, Gabriel, and Diego, are her natural children.
Her family added three girls after an article in El Latino touched her heart. A woman with terminal cancer named Alejandra had three girls. Fanny was drawn to the family and went over to check up on them. She started taking the children to spend the night at her house. Soon Alejandra and Fanny were talking about the girls’ future when Alejandra passed. There were people willing to take one girl, but no one that wanted all three girls. Fanny says her biggest fear was that the girls would be separated permanently. Fanny thought and prayed about it and made the decision to adopt the three girls herself. Fanny says her boys welcomed the girls from day one.
Fanny’s newest project is a magazine, Celebrando Latinas. The magazine was born at a 2017 conference where Fanny recognized that the women who attended needed to connect more than once a year. The magazine is the perfect way for women to continue communicating and was launched with a November/December 2017 issue. The Celebrando Latinas conference in July of 2018 had 1200 women in attendance. The conference covers health, beauty, technology, and business.
Her six children are all doing well. Ruben is now twenty years old and attending San Diego State University, studying economics and qualitative analysis. Gabriel is attending Southwestern College, and Diego will start high school this year. Her daughters are all in school. Cassandra, age 11, has the most memories of her natural mother. Esther is eight and the family planner, and is always suggesting what the family should be doing. Fatima is seven and is taken care of by all five of her siblings.
Fanny Miller is a businesswoman, a mother, a friend, and a mentor to many women.