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La Gordiloca: The Swearing Muckraker Upending Border Journalism

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Priscilla Villarreal, also known as La Gordiloca, roams Laredo, Tex., in a Dodge Ram and posts news reports on her popular Facebook page.

 

LAREDO, Tex. — Priscilla Villarreal roams the streets of Laredo in an old Dodge pickup, scrambling to drug busts and murder scenes to bring her tales from the dark side of the southwest border to her many viewers.

Rappers celebrate her scoops, proclaiming that “she gets more love than our own city’s mayor.”

“I guess this makes me famous, huh?” said Ms. Villarreal, 34, a 10th-grade dropout with a shaved head, an abundance of tattoos and an impassioned 119,000-strong following on Facebook. She is arguably the most influential journalist in Laredo, a border city of 260,000.

Reporting in profanity-laced Spanglish and calling herself La Gordiloca, which roughly translates as the Crazy Fat Lady, Ms. Villarreal’s swift rise to prominence reflects how many people on the border now prefer to get their news — and just maybe, provides a glimpse at the future of journalism.

All the notoriety amounts to a big shift for Ms. Villarreal. Just a few years ago she was working part time for a wrecking crew removing scrap from tractor-trailer crash sites. She was struggling with depression and post-traumatic stress after losing a baby born prematurely.

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