¡Viva Radio!

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

Part of the conflict came from Avila's tricky distribution methods. To make sure the maximum number of people read Reflexión, he made friends with a group of voceros, the guys who sell newspapers on street corners in Mexico. He offered them socks and soccer balls if they would agree to insert the magazine into the newspaper.

"It was illegal, but they did," he says. "I was 17 years old; I wasn't very concerned about the law. People started writing to the newspaper saying they were excited they had a new supplement for young people, so we got caught."

Around the same time, Avila discovered he was nominated for a government award to honor new entrepreneurial leaders in the city. The prize was to go to the United States to study English.

Sayra Sandoval is one of El Break’s newer members.
Brad Garner
Sayra Sandoval is one of El Break’s newer members.
Hurtado and Tony Arias raise their hands to indicate they have a comment while the show is on the air.
Brad Garner
Hurtado and Tony Arias raise their hands to indicate they have a comment while the show is on the air.

"A friend of mine who was an assistant in the government told me someone in his office nominated me. It was strange because they didn't like me that much," he says.

Avila didn't win first prize, but he did get a check for $1,400. He used the money to live with his aunt in Phoenix and study English. While he was in Arizona, he applied to Arizona State University — just to see if he could get in. Four months later, his English study was over and he still hadn't heard from ASU, so he returned to Mexico.

When Avila returned to Querétaro, he found that his magazine was dead. Though he had been planning to go to law school to become a politician, he found he was increasingly dissatisfied in Mexico. He then was accepted at ASU, so he decided to return and see what he could do for himself in America, even though he still knew very little English.

"I knew how to say 'window' and 'door,'" he jokes.

He got a job cleaning bathrooms at a Peter Piper Pizza, where he lied and told his fellow immigrant workers — most of whom were undocumented — that he also did not have his papers.

"I used to tell people I was illegal so I would be like them. They asked me how I crossed, and I made up a story," he says. "I told one guy I actually did have my papers and he was like, 'How stupid are you! Cleaning restrooms when you have opportunity.'"

But Avila says working at Peter Piper, and later at Jack in the Box, helped him.

"I learned 'medium pizza with pepperoni,'" he says, laughing. Then he grows serious. "I started working at Jack in the Box at the drive-thru. There were times I couldn't understand a word they said. One time a guy asked me, 'Can I have a hamburger with no bun?' I was like, 'What's bun?' And no one knew. The guy got so mad he threw the bag at me. But those are things that helped me."

At ASU, where he is now majoring in communications and Spanish, Avila decided once again to start a magazine, this time for other bilingual students.

In November 2001, he founded Nosotros y Tú, ASU's first bilingual publication. The magazine was a moderate success. Avila put out six issues before it got too expensive to print. He also worked with a group in 2004 that tried to fight the passage of Proposition 200, which requires proof of citizenship before registering to vote or registering for public benefits (under a 1996 law, legal residents aren't eligible for public benefits until five years after their status is regularized.)

It passed anyway. Avila was so upset by the law that he went back to Mexico. Though he meant to stay forever, he wound up staying only four months. He found he could no longer adjust to the Mexican way of life.

"I was in the mix. I had ideas from the U.S., and Mexicans didn't accept me anymore," he says. "I don't get along with the Chicano population. I consider myself Mexican. I tell my friends I will fight for this country. I have a passion for this country, but I am also Mexican. But when I went back to Mexico, I learned I am not a citizen of Mexico because I don't know a lot of things that were going on. The popular culture was different."

So Avila came back to ASU and Phoenix. A friend told him about a job at a new radio station in town — La Buena Onda. He started writing the morning show, working from 4 to 10 a.m. and going to school.

His big break came when the manager for the afternoon show didn't show up one day. The owner of the station, Maria Elena Llansa, decided Avila would take his place.

Avila was shocked. Because of his cleft palate (he's had five surgeries on his palate, lip, and nose to correct it) he never expected to have a job in broadcasting.

"I always had a speech problem, so radio was never a thing I would do. But no one noticed," he says.

Around that time, Llansa decided she wanted to develop a youth-oriented talk show and presented the idea to Avila. Unfortunately, she died of a brain aneurysm in December 2005 before El Break made it to the airwaves. But the station carried on in her vision.

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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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