A Voice in Spanish for Immigrants During Challenging Times

February 2, 2018 by · Leave a Comment 

I started working in Eastern Group Publications in the middle of the 1990’s, the decade when voters in California wanted to deny immigrants a public education, health care, and to allow authorities to stop and question anyone they suspected of being in the country illegally.

Yes, it was the time of Pete Wilson’s governorship, Prop. 187 – to eliminate social services for immigrants – and Prop. 227 to make California an English Only state.

It was a time of upheaval and change, some of it good, some of it – not.

It was the decade when some of the cities in Southeast Los Angeles County with majority Latino populations saw major changes in their leadership. Latinos swept into office in Bell Gardens, Cudahy, Bell, South Gate and Maywood. It was all happening as South Los Angeles, Inglewood and Compton started a demographic transformation as more Latinos moved in.

Because of the continued growth of the Latino community in Los Angeles, mainly from Mexico and Central America, the need for information in Spanish in this region was fundamental, so Eastern Group Publications Inc. (EGP) became the only bilingual publication in many of those areas.

Even though the newspaper’s circulation was mainly in East Los Angeles, EGP always published information that affected the Latino community as a whole and it wasn’t rare to cover events in South/Southeast Los Angeles, West Los Angeles and of course East L.A.

At the beginning of 1990, 85% of the population in Southeast L.A. was Latino, but still most of their political representatives were white, in part because of people’s apathy to getting involved in politics and because only 45% of the population was registered to vote.

In 1991, Bell Gardens, a city located nine miles south of downtown Los Angeles, where more than 90% of the population was Latino, a recall effort led by one woman, Maria Chacon, to oust four white city councilmembers and replace them with leaders that reflected the population succeeded.

For the people of Bell Gardens there was great hope that things would be different.

Chacon and other leaders with political ambitions in the city worked the political system and for the next decade were involved in political battles to maintain power. Sadly, while some things got better, the improvements came with charges and convictions for corruption.

This situation wasn’t unique to Bell Gardens. In 1994, other surrounding cities like Cudahy, Bell and Maywood went down similar roads, and EGP was there to report it.

Working at EGP gave me and the newspapers’ other reporters an immediate connection to the people in the area. Many times we were the first media outlet to carry stories from those cities and neighborhoods, which would later be published in the mainstream media.

Save Our State

In response to the growing number of Spanish speaking immigrants in California, new laws against undocumented people began to emerge in Sacramento.

Proposition 187, known as Save Our State (SOS), was approved by California voters in 1994, prohibiting access to education, healthcare and welfare benefits by undocumented families. Even though it never took effect, the courts ruled it unconstitutional, it still had an enormous impact on Latino families, particularly immigrants.

I recall writing stories about people not wanting to go to the supermarket because they feared being stopped and asked to prove their citizenship. Parents would not take sick children to the doctor because they feared the information they shared would sooner or later lead to deportation.

More than twenty years have passed, and those fears are as real today.

On the flip side, we offered extensive coverage on the growing activism in the Latino community, among citizens and the undocumented, to support and protect the most affected and vulnerable groups, including the more than 1.3 million undocumented immigrants living in the state.

They were always fighting inequality, fighting for better salaries, lower rent, and the right to educate their children in the language of their choice, whether it was English only or in a bilingual program.

There were so many issues affecting people’s quality of life. After the 1992 riots, many people decided to leave the area, creating an opportunity for a new group coming from south of the border to move into what were once predominately African American neighborhoods. Gang violence flared up and devolved into racial war zones between African Americans and the Latinos moving into their neighborhoods in search of cheaper housing, as well as in other parts of the city where Latinos were the majority.

EGP’s editorial staff was small. We didn’t have the resources of many large newsrooms, still we managed to report on so many issues and the many good things taking place in the communities we served. We got the stories because we were dedicated, ambitious and connected to the community; they would call to let us know what was going on in the neighborhood, the good and the bad. They wanted to be heard, and trusted us to listen and to tell their stories accurately.

An important aspect of EGP that I want to highlight is that in the seven years I worked for the paper, neither my editors or the owners of the company ever censured my stories; even the ones that weren’t too popular with the system or an advertiser.

The freedom to write or pick a topic to report on was what I most value about EGP. That’s why, when I heard a few months ago that the Sanchez family was going to sell, I felt sad. I knew that without the Sanchez family it would be hard to continue reporting to the community with that same level of commitment, especially now, in Trump’s era.

Special Thanks

As a reporter and member of the community, I just want to thank the Sanchez family for being there for the people for the past four decades. But also, because during my time working for the paper, I always felt part of the family, even now, as the years have flown by. Every time we have a chance to talk, it’s as if no time has passed.

I want to thank Publisher Dolores Sanchez, and her late husband, COO Jonathan Sanchez, for giving me the opportunity to begin and develop my career as a journalist in Los Angeles. I will never forget that through EGP, I was given the opportunity to serve the community for a better future.

La Voz en Español Para los Inmigrantes en Una Década de Retos

February 1, 2018 by · Leave a Comment 

Empecé a trabajar en Eastern Group Publications Inc., (EGP) a mediados de los 90’s, la década en la que los votantes californianos se voltearon contra los inmigrantes sin documentos.

En ese tiempo en las urnas se aprobó la eliminación de la educación pública, el cuidado de salud y permitir a las autoridades investigar a la gente en la calle bajo sospecha de vivir sin documentos en el país.

Efectivamente, fue el tiempo del gobernador Pete Wilson, la Proposición 187 (eliminación de servicios sociales a los inmigrantes), y la Proposición 227 que exigía a las escuelas enseñar solo en inglés.

Fue un momento de convulsión y cambio, algunos de ellos buenos, otros, no.

También fue la década en que algunas ciudades en el suroeste del Condado de Los Ángeles, de mayoría latina, finalmente tomaron las riendas del gobierno como Bell Gardens, Cudahy, Bell, South Gate y Maywood; mientras en el sur del condado, Inglewood y Compton iniciaban la transformación demográfica que dos décadas después convertiría al español en un idioma importante para salir adelante.

Debido al continuo crecimiento de la comunidad, principalmente proveniente de México y Centro América, la necesidad de tener información en español era fundamental, así que EGP se convirtió en la única publicación bilingüe en dichas comunidades.

La publicación circulaba principalmente en el Este de Los Ángeles, pero siempre se publicó información que afectaba a la comunidad inmigrante en general. No era raro cubrir eventos en el sureste, sur centro y claro, en el este del condado.

Recordemos que, a principio de 1990, el 85% de la población del sureste era latina, no obstante, la mayoría de su representación política era anglosajona. Esto se debía a la apatía de la gente de involucrarse en los procesos políticos y a que sólo el 45% de este grupo estaba registrado para votar.

Al inicio de los 90’s, el 90% de la población de Bell Gardens ya era latina. Esta ciudad se ubica a unas 9 millas del centro de L.A. En ese tiempo bastó el esfuerzo de destitución de una mujer migrante y latina, María Chacón, para cambiar a cuatro de los cinco representantes blancos por líderes latinos.

Para la gente de Bell Gardens, había una gran esperanza de que las cosas fueran diferentes.

Chacón y otros líderes con ambiciones políticas en la ciudad aprendieron bien como trabajaba el sistema, así que por la siguiente década se involucraron en batallas políticas y casos de corrupción para mantener y disputarse el poder en la ciudad. Tristemente, aunque algunas cosas mejoraron, las mejoras vinieron con acusaciones y condenas por corrupción.

Esta situación no solo ocurrió en Bell Gardens, en 1994 algunas ciudades alrededor como Cudahy, Bell and Maywood siguieron pasos similares y casi siempre EGP estuvo ahí para reportarlo.

El trabajar en esta publicación nos brindó una conexión inmediata con la comunidad en el área y en muchos casos, siempre fuimos los primeros medios de comunicación en publicar las historias que más tarde aparecían en los principales medios del condado.

Salvemos Nuestro Estado

En ese tiempo, a pesar del incremento de la migración de habla hispana en California, el aumento de nuevas leyes contra las personas sin documentos empezó a surgir.

La Proposición 187 conocida como Salvemos Nuestro Estado (SOS), fue aprobada por los californianos en 1994. Esta medida prohibía el acceso a la educación pública, salud médica y beneficios sociales para la gente sin documentos. Y aunque nunca se puso en práctica por su inconstitucionalidad, la propuesta causó un fuerte impacto entre las familias latinas, particularmente inmigrantes.

Recuerdo haber escrito historias donde la gente mostraba su miedo simplemente para ir a los supermercados porque temían ser detenidos por las autoridades. En otros casos, algunas familias preferían no ir al doctor porque no confiaban en el sistema. Ellos pensaban que, si compartían su información con el gobierno, en algún momento terminarían en la lista de deportación.

Han pasado más de veinte años, y esos temores son tan reales hoy.

Por el otro lado, se cubrió un gran número de historias sobre activismo entre la comunidad latina, entre los ciudadanos y los indocumentados, para apoyar y proteger a los grupos más afectados y vulnerables que viven en el estado.

Ellos siempre estaban luchando contra la desigualdad, mejores salarios, bajas rentas y el derecho a educar sus hijos solo en inglés o en un programa bilingüe.

Hubo tantos problemas que afectaron la calidad de vida de las personas. Después de los disturbios de 1992, muchas personas decidieron abandonar el área, creando una oportunidad para que un nuevo grupo proveniente del sur de la frontera se mudara a lo que una vez fueron vecindarios predominantemente afroamericanos. La violencia de pandillas surgió y se convirtió en zonas de guerra raciales entre los afroamericanos y los latinos que se mudaban a sus barrios en busca de viviendas más baratas, así como en otras partes de la ciudad donde los latinos eran la mayoría.

Sin importar que EGP no tenía mucho personal, la gran mayoría de estas situaciones fueron publicadas por el semanario. Esto se debió a que siempre estábamos en contacto con la comunidad y si no sabíamos de un acontecimiento, ellos nos llamaban. Lo importante fue que confiaban en nosotros para que su voz fuera escuchada.

Una de las cosas que más valoró de EGP es que en siete años que trabajé con ellos los editores o dueños del periódico nunca me censuraron mis historias, incluso aquellas que no eran muy populares con el sistema o la iniciativa privada.

La libertad de escribir o elegir un tema para reportarlo creo que era los más importante que prevalecía en el periódico. Es por eso que cuando me enteré de que la familia Sánchez (dueños) estaba vendiendo la publicación por un momento me puse a pensar que, sin ellos, no será fácil continuar sirviendo a la comunidad con ese nivel de compromiso con el que siempre lo hicieron, especialmente ahora, en la era de Trump.

Agradecimientos especiales

Como reportero y miembro de la comunidad, solo quiero agradecer a la familia Sánchez por siempre estar de lado de la gente en las últimas cuatro décadas. Pero también porque durante mi tiempo trabajando con ellos siempre me hicieron sentir como parte de la familia. Incluso ahora, siempre que tengo la oportunidad de hablar con ellos, parece que el tiempo no ha pasado.

Agradezco a Dolores Sánchez, directora editorial, y a su difunto esposo Jonathan Sánchez, director de operaciones (COO), por haberme dado la oportunidad de empezar y desarrollar mi carrera como periodista en Los Ángeles. Nunca olvidaré que a través de EGP, tuve la oportunidad de informar a la comunidad por un futuro mejor.

EGP Assoc. Publisher Jonathan Sanchez Dies of Cancer

January 5, 2017 by · 2 Comments 

News of the passing of Jonathan Sanchez, the long-time associate publisher and COO of the venerable bilingual community newspaper chain Eastern Group Publications/EGPNews (publishers of this newspaper) sparked an outpouring of both shock and loss on social media by those who knew and worked with him over the years, including many in the nonprofit, political and business communities, and fellow journalists.

“Jonathan has been an important voice for the Latino community,” former State Assemblyman and Los Angeles City Councilman Richard Alatorre told EGP shortly after learning of Sanchez’s death.

Jonathan Sanchez, who was surrounded by family in his final days, passed away Dec. 23 at his home in Highland Park, California, the Sanchez family announced at the start of the New Year.

His death comes following a short battle with cancer. He was 64.

Tributes Pour in for Jonathan Sanchez who died Dec. 23 of cancer and will memorialized Friday at Pillar of Fire Church in Highland Park. Photo: EGP Archives.

Tributes Pour In for Jonathan Sanchez who died Dec. 23 of cancer and will be memorialized Friday at Pillar of Fire Church in Highland Park. Photo: EGP Archives.

According to the family, Jonathan was very private and never wanted to burden his family or friends with his illness, so it’s understandable his passing comes as a shock to many who knew and loved him all these years.

He was a loving husband, father, grandfather, friend and confident to many, an advocate for the Latino community he loved so much and for the Latino-owned small businesses he worked so hard to give a voice to, the family said.

“Jonathan left us too early and will be sorely missed,” they said.

It’s a sentiment echoed repeatedly on the news group’s website and Facebook pages and Twitter feed, and the pages of individual family members and friends.

“So so sorry to hear of his passing he was a great friend to the community and Centro de Ninos he will be missed by so many,” Sandra Serrano Sewell, executive Director El Centro de Ninos wrote on Facebook.

Patricia Perez, owner of VPE Public Relations, wrote, “Our community suffered a great loss. He was a steadfast champion of community newspapers and always sought to inform and educate his readers. Heartbreaking.”

“Jonathan and Eastern Group Publications has been a mainstay in the community that so many counted on and he and EGP delivered over and over again, day in and day out,” writes Diana Martinez. editor of the San Fernando Valley Sun/El Sol.

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Photo: EGP Archives

One of nine children, Jonathan was born Aug. 31, 1952 to Juanita Beltran Sanchez and Jose Vicente Sanchez. He was a lifelong Angeleno who spent most of his childhood and adult life in the Northeast Los Angeles communities of Highland Park and Mt. Washington.

Together with his wife of three plus decades, EGP Publisher Dolores Sanchez, they established a highly respected chain of 11 bilingual (English/Spanish language) community newspapers serving East, Northeast and Southeast Los Angeles County. In 2015, the venerable Mexican-American Sun, ELA Brooklyn-Belvedere Comet, Wyvernwood Chronicle and Monterey Park Comet were folded into EGP’s flagship newspaper, the Eastside Sun. EGP’s other publications are the Northeast Sun, Bell Gardens Sun, Montebello Comet and Commerce Comet.

Before joining EGP in 1979, Sanchez was art director at the Bloom Agency, a full service advertising agency that also published monthly magazines. In addition to overseeing the layout and design for the various publications, Sanchez also doubled as a photographer, shooting covers for many magazine covers.

Jonathan attended UCLA and completed journalism programs at the Amos Tuck School of Business Administration and The Poynter Institute for Media Studies.

In his capacity as EGP associate publisher and COO, Sanchez oversaw the business side of the family-owned and operated newspaper group, including advertising, client and government relations. He also directed EGP’s special advertising and public relations contracts, such as a multi-year statewide outreach project for California’s former Healthy Families Program that included advertising, public relations, community engagement, enrollment and other elements, and dozens of other contracts.

Photo: EGP Archives

“Jonathan Sanchez was a man of conviction and passion. He spent his lifetime ensuring the Latino community was well informed, positioned and heard. He used the power of the pen to tell stories of struggle, truth and triumph, Susan Sifuentes Trigueros, with SoCalGas told EGP. “He fought to ensure corporations understood the value and economic strength of our Latino community,” she said, adding he was a dear friend who “always lent an ear and shared his sincere, honest perspective.”

An avid supporter of transparency in government, Jonathan and Dolores have always operated under the motto “A Free and Independent Press Preserves the People’s ‘Right To Know:’” A principle that continues to guide the newspaper group as it strives to give voice to the issues of importance to its readers.

Shortly before taking ill, Sanchez was elected to the Board of Directors of the California Newspaper Association (CNPA).

As a member of the CNPA, Sanchez advocated strongly and successfully against a plan to change California’s public notice laws, telling state lawmakers that what they were proposing would endangered the public’s ability to know what its government is doing and how taxpayer dollars are being spent.

In a letter to state legislators, he said they were making it “more difficult for citizens, taxpayers, property owners … to access information that could pertain to them … about local public works projects, land use and environmental issues, delinquent taxes that could result in property seizure, termination of parental rights, contracting opportunities or ways to mitigate issues arising from government action, … further disenfranchising Latinos.”

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Photo: EGP Archives

His past professional affiliations include:

– Founding Member and Board Member of the Los Angeles Latino Chamber of Commerce

– Founding President of the California Hispanic Publishers Association (CHPA), a statewide organization of Hispanic owned newspapers that during his term in office reached more than four million readers a week.

– Vice President and founding member of The National Federation of Hispanic Owned Newspapers (NFHON).

– Member of the National Association of Hispanic Publications (NAHP)

– Member of the National Newspaper Association

– Founding member of The New California Media, which later became New America Media

– Member of the California Newspaper Publishers Association

– Founding member of The California Free Press Association

– Member of the Latin Business Association

– Member of the Board of Latino Journal

– Member of the Latino Health Coalition

– Member of the Latino Peace Officers Association

Jonathan was appointed by former Gov. Pete Wilson to the Small Business Development Board of the California Trade and Commerce Agency; and California Inspection/Maintenance Review Committee (Department of Consumer Affairs/Bureau of Automotive Repair.)

He was the founder and president of the Eastern Group Foundation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to “Family Literacy and Community Volunteerism.” The EGP Foundation’s Letters to Santa program benefited more than 90,000 disadvantaged children and their families. The Foundation also provides internships for college and high school students pursuing a career in journalism, and has previously worked with grammar school students helping them publish their own mini newspapers.

Active in community service, Jonathan also served as a member of:

– Board of Governors of the Crippled Children’s Society.

– Board of Directors of the Boy Scouts of America.

– Member of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art Advisory Board.

In May 2016, the Los Angeles Boys and Girls Club honored Jonathan and Dolores Sanchez for their support of programs that enrich the lives of children.

Jonathan has received many other recognitions and honors over the years from nonprofit groups, elected officials and the cities where EGP newspapers circulate.

In addition, he has served on numerous boards and committees for community based organizations, law enforcement agencies and educational entities.

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Photo: EGP Archives

Jonathan is survived by his wife Dolores, daughters Deana and Bianca Preciado and her husband Arturo Preciado; brothers David, Miguel, Juan and Pedro and sisters Maria Teresa, Delia and Rose; Dolores’ children Gloria Alvarez and husband Mike Alvarez, their four children and two grandchildren; Michael Sanchez and wife Christine and their five children and four grandchildren; Sarah Ramos and her husband Jon Ramos and their three children and; Joe Sanchez III and his wife Carla, their 8 children, spouses and nearly two dozen grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

A Christian Memorial Service will be held Friday, Jan. 6 at 11 a.m. at Pillar of Fire Church: 4900 N. Figueroa St., Los Angeles, CA. 90042.

In lieu of flowers, the family is asking that donations be made in Jonathan’s name to the nonprofit Los Angeles Boys & Girls Club in Lincoln Heights: 2635 Pasadena Ave., Los Angeles, CA 90031, (323) 221-9111, or another program supporting children. For more information, visit their website or email info@labgc.org. Additional information will be posted on the EGP website  and/or Facebook page

What A Few Others Had to Say About Jonathan Sanchez

I’m deeply saddened by the passing of my friend Jonathan Sanchez, Eastern Group Publications’ Associate Publisher and COO. My thoughts and prayers are with his wife Dolores, their family, and all their loved ones. Jonathan was always a great advocate for Latinos, LA County, and the network of community newspapers. His passing is a great loss for all those he championed.

-U.S. Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard

I am so sorry to hear of Jonathan’s passing. You have such a wonderful legacy in your family and have done so much for our community. Jonathan Sanchez and the Sanchez family, has been committed “to telling the stories of good work and accomplishments taking place, along with the issues” faced in East and Northeast L.A. area neighborhoods for many years. The newspaper group’s belief that “consumers, whether they are English or Spanish dominant or bilingual, need information about their communities in a language they can understand” speaks to the Sanchez family’s commitment and connection to the community. For this reason, Los Angeles Boys & Girls Club honored EGP and the Sanchez family at our benefit dinner in May 2016. We are very sorry to hear of the loss of Mr. Jonathan Sanchez who will be missed. We continue to honor and thank you for your commitment to our community.

Juana Lambert Los Angeles Boys & Girls Club

I am shocked. Jonathan and Dolores gave me my first shot in the newspaper business, and I will forever be grateful for that opportunity. I will always cherish my talks with Jonathan and the advice he gave me as a young reporter. He was a great mentor who was always in my corner, no matter how much trouble I stirred up with my articles. I owe my career to him and Dolores. Thank you, Jonathan, for showing me the way.

Greg Arroyo, journalist & former EGP reporter.

We are all devastated across the nation. Please thank his family for his countless hours to our organization, for his latest role as Chair of Legislative Committee for NAHP and we will honor him properly during our March event in DC in 2017, we will update you. I will personally miss his guidance on this industry and politics as he is instrumental on the reviving of our organization through his mentorship

Martha Montoya Chair National Association of Hispanic Publications NAHP El Mundo US

Truely sad. Jonathan was such a wonderful and supportive person. He was an advocate for the east side and our youth. We will miss him.

-Hollenbeck Youth Center

I am so sad that I didn’t get to see John before he died. He was a great mentor and taught me a lot about reporting and the newspaper business and I learned alot about politics and issues from him.  I’m so sad for Dolores and and the family.

-Agustin Duran, Editor de Noticias Hoy Los Angeles, and former EGP Spanish editor and reporter

A tragic loss to the communitis he loved and served for so many years. He will be greatly missed by all of us.

-Phil Wagner, Bell Gardens city manager

Oh no! So sorry for this huge loss. May he rest in peace. I am grateful to have seen his intelligence, skills, kindness, and leadership up close. I learned so much from Jonathan, very sad to hear this news…

-Raul Vasquez, former EGP Spanish editor & report

Gloria, I will never forget when you and Jonathan opened your doors at EGP for my first job as a journalist. Rest In Peace.

-Norma Edith Galeana, journalist and public relations

Very sorry to learn this terrible news. Mr. Sanchez was an accomplished journalist. He has left a legacy and no doubt he will be missed.

Jorge Rifa Commerce city administrator

For all of you in Latino Publishing – or California Politics, the sad news is that we lost Jonathan Sanchez. For the last 40 years Jonathan has been a consistent voice on issues of concern to the Latino community, on ensuring that Latino publications receive the respect that they deserve, and that politicians realize the power that the Latino community has. Johnathan was never at a loss for words and all that knew him will sincerely miss him .

Kirk Whisler Latino Print Network

I just learned that Jonathan died last Friday and wanted to share with you my deep sense of loss and sadness. He was a great ally — as you both have been. He went out of his way to provide counsel and support, and got on planes to fly east or north to be physically present at our founding events. He never asked for recognition himself, but by being in the room, by hosting some meetings himself, he lent credibility and validation to everything we did.

I felt very honored the first time I met all of you and you shared a meal with me. You offered to share space at your office. I think of you as the Sanchez family and without you guys, LA would have felt like an alien city to me. He embodied everything distinctive about ethnic media — above all the commitment to community, and the independent voice — that makes me devoted to the sector.

-Sandy Close Executive Director New America Media

Mr. Sanchez was an amazing person. Kind, always willing to listen and offer advice. This community has truly lost a great man.

-Hector Barajas MBA Merino, Barakas & Allen

This is tremendously sad news … He was truly a great man. I enjoyed many conversations with him over the years and those conversations always left me a little wiser. He will be greatly missed.

Jim Ewart, general consul CNPA-California Newspaper Assoc.

I am so very sorry to hear of Jonathan’s passing. I always respected him and recognized the sincere and profound commitment he had to making positive change for Latinos and others. This is the first impression I had of him when we first met. Being able to work with you all on various projects was a great experience. Jonathan’s commitment to making change was one I have seldom come across in my many decades of working in the public advocacy sector. I will miss him and so will many others. My most profound condolences for the loss of a good person with great passion and desire to making a positive difference. He accomplished many important things for our community in his short life.

Arnoldo S. Torres Policy Consultant

I always appreciated Jonathan’s bluntness and have a number of fond memories interacting with him during the many years I worked in the Commerce Public Information Office.

-Jason Stinnett, former PIO City of Commerce

He was a very good man. He did a lot for the community, for many of us, he covered us. He was a mentor to many. He and Dolores were a good team, they did a lot for the community.

-Alycia Enciso, interior design and owner of AE Designs, photo demographer.

Updated 5:19 p.m.

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