¡Viva Radio!

El Break proves there's more to Spanish-language radio than ranchero music

In the year and a half it's been on the air, El Break has taken on teen pregnancy, machismo and domestic violence, and, of course, immigration. On July 30, the members began a hunger strike to bring attention to a federal act that would allow undocumented students to attend college for in-state tuition prices and become citizens after graduation. El Break also has explored the virtues of Mexican versus American hot dogs, celebrated the 100th anniversary of Frida Kahlo's birth, and debated whether or not the quinceañera is an outdated custom.

It's lucky enough to be on an independent station where the format isn't tightly mandated. And fortunate enough to be in an increasingly influential medium. According to Arbitron, a national radio ratings company, Spanish-language radio is one of the fastest-growing markets — Hispanics listen to radio more than the general population, and they listen longer.

This is a fact Avila is acutely aware of. In a city with no Spanish-language daily newspaper (there are two weeklies, La Voz and Prensa Hispana) he feels a sense of responsibility.

"For Mexicans, it's one of the only media out there. The newspapers come out every Wednesday, and Telemundo is not local. Our people are not informed at all because they don't have outlets," says Avila. "The English media is not covering us and our media doesn't have enough resources to cover us. Our people don't have a place."


As a kid growing up in Mexico, Avila certainly never thought he'd become a radio personality in El Norte. He spent much of his childhood undergoing and recovering from surgeries to repair a cleft palate. He was born in Culiacán, the largest city in the Mexican state of Sinaloa. When he was a baby, his family moved to Tijuana, where his sister Diali was born. His father, then working as a lumberjack in Oregon, applied for and got legal residency in the United States as a worker under Ronald Reagan's 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act, which gave amnesty to undocumented workers who entered the country before January 1, 1982. Under the law, the rest of the family received legal status and U.S. residency, too.

Avila remembers being exposed to American culture as he grew up on the border, though it was an odd smattering that comes from living almost, but not quite, in America.

"When I was a kid, I loved blues and American movies," he says. "And when we had to buy groceries, we would go to the United States, then go back. It wasn't a big deal. Even psychologically, it wasn't a big deal."

The family moved again to Querétaro, a city about two hours from Mexico City, when Avila was 14. There, he came into his own. When he was 16, Avila saw a documentary on Emilio Azcárraga, the Mexican billionaire who became CEO of Grupo Televisa — the largest Spanish-language media conglomerate — at 29.

"I said, 'I could do that.' I decided to put together a magazine."

He talked local printers into donating posters announcing he was looking for writers for a magazine for young people. The posters drew attention in the socially conservative city, ruled by the National Action Party (Partído Acción Nacional, or El PAN), and Avila was overwhelmed by the response.

"I never limited what we would write, but a lot of the students in 1998 were really concerned about Mexico's politics. Most of the people writing were university students. I was a high school student in charge of a magazine with mostly university students," he says. "We started writing about political issues, and I liked it a lot. I started writing very bad things about people in government locally and nationally."

Ironically, the first issue of Reflexión was printed on a government copy machine, courtesy of a friend who worked in a city office building. Though it was simple, with black-and-white photocopied pages, stapled binding and no pictures, the first 1,000 copies of the magazine were a hit in the small city.

By the second issue — the magazine published irregularly, sometimes monthly, sometimes every six weeks — it had gained local sponsors, and Avila had developed a taste for criticizing the status quo.

Right next to Querétaro is a state called Guanajuato, where Vicente Fox, the now-former Mexican president, was then governor.

"He was starting to talk about being president of Mexico," says Avila. "He was very conservative — he was like Bush — and I was always attacking that in the magazine. Our publication was a slap in the face to the conservative community."

A year after the first publication, Avila was distributing 13,000 copies per issue and selling T-shirts to support the enterprise. Because it was popular, and the town was small, the government started to notice the bad press coming from the high-schooler.

"They said, 'You can't distribute the magazine here.' We got really mad. I went to Citizen's Tuesday, where the mayor would sit and take questions from people, and I made a big deal about them not letting me distribute the magazine," he says. "So they let us do it again the next month."

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6 comments
Bosela
Bosela

Awesome!. Great report. I'm amazed and very glad. Altough i can't listen to the radio show as often as I would like. I LIKE IT VERY MUCH. As a latina I thank you for taking a look at us this way.

anonymous
anonymous

Otra hipocrita fresa que se cree muy gringa, que no mas anda metida en esto para hacerse publicidad, especialmente en este parrafo cuando dice:Sandoval, 20, was born in Mexico City and came to the States at 2. When she was in middle school, her parents divorced and she moved back to Mexico with her mother. After a year and a half in her home country, she found she just could not adjust to the Mexican way of life, so she moved back to America to live with her dad.

Si te has de haber regresado porque de seguro extranabas tus lentes Versace que te apuesto te costaron mitad de lo que ganas, pinches fresas hipocritas si estan tan preocupados por los mexicanos aqui porque no usan su dinero para ayudar a gente que lo necesita en vez de comprar lentes Versace?

anonymous
anonymous

La mera verdad son una bola de puros fresas quejones que estan enojados con Estados Unidos porque quieren venir aqui a crear la separacion que existe en Mexico entre los ricos y pobres, quieren demostrar que ellos si fueron a la universidad y pretenden querer ayudar a los mexicanos que estan aqui infiltrandose en cualquier medio de comunicacion posible, cuando lo que realmente quieren es que los gringos vean que ellos no son jardineros ni carpinteros, quieren los gringos los vean como si fueran Elena Poniatowska o Octavio Paz. Y aparte, estan enojados porque aqui no se les hace tanto borlote como quisieran por ser ninos fresas intelectualones, al contrario, la gente los detesta y los aborrece por ser tan hipocritas y por que se mueren por sus quince minutos de fama cuando ni siquiera tienen talento en ningun campo. Y que mexicano tan mas hipocrita es Luis, especialmente en la parte del articulo cuando dice que despues de regresar a Mexico por estar enojado con la prop 200 y no poder volverse adaptar a la sociedad mexicana, entonces quien chingados crees que eres? Un guero de The OC o que a poco los niveles fresas se te subieron mucho mas alto solo porque aprendiste a hablar ingles y porque sabes pedir un Starbucks? Que bueno que vivas aqui y tengas una identidad perdida, porque Mexico no necesita a hipocritas e idiotas como tu que no saben ni porque estan involucrados en tanto desmadre, hablas por hablar y por hacerte famoso usando causas como la de los ilegales para tu propio beneficio.

Diali
Diali

I am sorry sir, but we DO pay taxes. In clothes, food..etc!. So please inform your self first.

Joe Blow
Joe Blow

Thanks for the enlightening article. It proves that most illegals have no real loyalty to America, or any interest in becoming a bone fide American. They dance around the topic of why they don't want to stay in Mexico. Why is that? I'd like to hear some more specifics about that subject. If they want to protest something or go on hunger strikes, why don't they start by doing it in Mexico City? That's where it's really needed. If more Mexicans stayed put, and worked for change there, to make things better in their home country, I think we'd all be better off, including them. I personally might have a little more sympathy and respect for them if the majority were to do that.

Pietre
Pietre

Dear Protesters:I really do not give a damn about your cause. I came to this country from Poland to work and make a better life for me and my family. You want free education paid with my taxes. If you want to protest do it in your country of origen. You want free education, free healthcare, the whole enchilada...PAY for it!!!

 

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