¡Viva Radio!

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

Enriquez's passion and sadness stem partially from a tragedy that struck El Break about one year ago when Isaac Anaya, an undocumented former El Break contributor, was killed.

Anaya, a math major at Phoenix College, was on the show early in El Break's existence. He did a nightclub section similar to the one Hurtado does now. After a couple of years at PC, he could no longer afford school. Though he really wanted to complete his math degree and play soccer for a university, Anaya took a job offer with eBay in Tennessee where he could make more money and, perhaps, return to school.

On the way to Tennessee, he crashed his car and died.

Luis Avila
Brad Garner
Luis Avila
The members of El Break: From left, Gabby Arias, Laura Suarez, Diali Avila, Obed Hurtado, Sayra Sandoval, Tony Arias, and their leader, Luis Avila.
Brad Garner
The members of El Break: From left, Gabby Arias, Laura Suarez, Diali Avila, Obed Hurtado, Sayra Sandoval, Tony Arias, and their leader, Luis Avila.

The news devastated his former El Break coworkers — at that time, just Avila, Enriquez, Suarez, and the Arias siblings — who had to go on the air the next day. They rushed to turn the show into a tribute to their friend. The show ended with them in tears.

"It was really hard because we were kind of not ready to accept his death, and in my case, I understood the profundity of his loss when I was on the air," says Avila. "We couldn't hold ourselves together and we cried when his sister called to say thank you. When I look back to that moment, it's kind of blurry. I thought it was a joke he was playing on us and he was going to show up like Machiavelli. It didn't work like that."

The loss was especially hard for Suarez and Enriquez, his best friends.

Laura, who was supposed to have gone on the trip with him, went to Mexico instead. She found out he'd died the day she got back.

"One of my biggest issues is why I didn't get to say goodbye. Everyone else did," she says. "It saddens me because his voice was heard. Isaac was able to express everything he felt, and that he's no longer here is really sad."

Though what happened to Anaya and their other friends who still struggle to exist in America is a constant concern, El Break is not always serious. A big part of the show is devoted to expressing the cultural experience of Mexicans in America, and figuring out what that means for Arizona. Other groups like Mexikatek Produktionz, which consists of two Phoenix promoters working to expose "espanish" — English and Spanish — culture to the Valley, have also found a voice.

Avila sees Phoenix as a blank slate, a place that could learn a lot from Mexico's counterculture.

"In Hermosillo, there is a festival called Pitic that we went to. It was amazing to see the creativity. The counterculture in Mexico is way bigger than in Phoenix. I think we are still dumbing it up with the cowboy thing," he says. "People like Mexikatek are about brining Mexican identity in the United States. For us, it's about living in the United States with the fact we are from Mexico."

Pitic is an anniversary celebration for Hermosillo — a celebration of the city's identity. The entire city gets into it, with banners hung from buildings. At night, there's a carnival-like atmosphere — fire dancers, people on stilts, and special light displays all over the city. By day, local and international artists show their work around town. It's kind of like what Art Detour could be, if Phoenix put its heart into it.

On a recent show, Hurtado's segment focused on the difference between American and Mexican hot dogs.

At a hot dog cart they've found on Seventh Avenue, just south of Camelback, the group is conducting research. On the air later that week, they'll decide they prefer the American version, though tonight, they're craving the heart-attack inducing, bacon-wrapped Mexican hot dog.

It's a sweaty July night and they're starving. Earlier, they held their two-hour weekly planning meeting at Willow House, where, between teasing each other and laughing constantly, they somehow planned the next week's show. It was the kind of chaotic meeting between close friends that an outsider can't quite make sense of, ending when Avila felt enough had been accomplished and announced, "Vamos hot dogs!"

In the pool of light cast by a generator next to the hot dog cart, they drink Coca-Cola out of glass bottles, and Hurtado interviews the women who run the stand.

The food comes out, dripping with tomatoes, guacamole, beans, and bacon. Avila eats two, Tony has three. The girls stick to one each. While Sandoval picks at a poblano pepper, complaining it's not hot enough, Avila mentions he's recently been contacted by a pro-immigration group out of California in the middle of a fast. The group wants to bring attention to proposed federal legislation, the DREAM (Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors) Act, which would allow students who have spent at least five years in the American educational system to pay in-state tuition and become eligible for citizenship after completion of an associate degree, two years at a four-year university, or two years of military service. It's been before Congress in some form since 2001. According to data from the Urban Institute, there are roughly 65,000 undocumented immigrants who graduate from high school and would qualify for DREAM Act benefits each year.

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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.


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?


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.


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.


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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