¡Viva Radio!

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

On a recent Sunday morning, several twentysomethings in jeans and T-shirts race around the otherwise deserted offices of La Buena Onda 1190-AM, a radio station in central Phoenix. In an hour, El Break will go live for its weekly noon to 2 p.m. broadcast.

It couldn't have been easy for Luis Avila to get out of bed this morning. Last night, he was at Club Rain in Scottsdale, falling in love with singer Ely Guerra (think: a Latina Mazzy Star). Even in jeans and Chuck Taylors, Guerra was breathtaking, and she stole Avila's heart with her guitar and songs about lonely nights. Between each number, as the crowd applauded, Avila swooned, yelling "I love you! Marry me!" loudly enough to make his friends and radio cohosts crack up. They were dancing and downing beers until 2 a.m., when the thought of food and sleep — and work the next day — finally tempted them off the dance floor.

Actually, the members of El Break were at Club Rain on business, doing interviews for the show and spreading the word about an upcoming pro-immigration event. This morning, the mission continues.

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.
Laura Suarez asks a nightclubber about quinceañeras.
Brad Garner
Laura Suarez asks a nightclubber about quinceañeras.
Obed Hurtado conducts an interview outside Club Rain in Scottsdale.
Brad Garner
Obed Hurtado conducts an interview outside Club Rain in Scottsdale.
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.
Laura Suarez prepares her El Break segment before going on the air.
Brad Garner
Laura Suarez prepares her El Break segment before going on the air.
Tony Arias debates immigration policy on the air.
Brad Garner
Tony Arias debates immigration policy on the air.
Luis Avila discusses El Break's hunger strike with fans at the Copa Panamerica soccer tournament.
Brad Garner
Luis Avila discusses El Break's hunger strike with fans at the Copa Panamerica soccer tournament.

If they're hung over, it doesn't show (though the two underage contributors, who missed last night's festivities, do look more rested). Avila has shed his party shirt for a brown T bearing the show's name. He and Obed Hurtado are editing interviews about Guerra's concert, while the others type last-minute notes and make a few hurried phone calls. Above the editing equipment hangs an autographed photo of Hillary Clinton with Avila.

Five minutes until airtime, and the chaos is calming down slightly, though one contributor, Laura Suarez, is still editing her segment about quinceañeras. Avila enters the main studio and takes his place behind the mic and the control board, where he'll direct the show.

"Chavos," he yells. "Chavos!"

Guys, guys!

Avila pulls his microphone in front of him and gets ready to go live. The others follow his lead and take their places in the two studios.

Avila cues the introductory music for that day, the song "Give Us Some Truth," by Instant Karma.

In rapid Spanish, Avila greets the audience in his best radio announcer voice, "Hola, muy buenos tardes!"

Hello, good afternoon.

"Como esta ustedes?" He asks his co-broadcasters how they are.

"Muy bien," they say in unison. And for the next two hours, this group of young, hopeful immigrants controls the airwaves of a corner of Phoenix.

Bienvenidos a El Break.

Welcome to El Break.


Avila and the other Breakers are members of what sociologists call the "1.5 generation" — caught between first- and second-generation immigrants.

All but two were born in Mexico. Some came here as small children, some as high-schoolers. Even those born in the states have spent substantial time in Mexico. In the unique position of being not quite American but no longer fully Mexican, El Break easily navigates both worlds.

According to ASU sociology professor Cecilia Menjivar, that gives them a power others do not have.

"They are cultural brokers," she says. "They are more versatile, more flexible. They can move easily in two worlds and translate not just the language, but also the culture. It can be alienating, but it can also be empowering."

In a city with more than a million Latinos (almost all of them Mexican), El Break represents the future — a way to fill both a cultural and political void. The old guard has faded somewhat — Chicanos Por La Causa remains a strong organization, but not as galvanizing as it once was. Immigration activists in Arizona are split on just about every policy issue and treat every matter with an almost ridiculous reverence.

Not so El Break. They are activists, true, but as much as they believe in immigration reform, they also believe in having fun.

Marcos Najera, a journalist who covers Latino affairs for local public-radio station KJZZ, says he's attracted to El Break's enthusiasm. Instead of grinding an ax on the air every Sunday, Avila and company know how to laugh. Najera has witnessed Avila's playful attitude firsthand; the two moonlight as actors and have performed together.

"They get things bubbling, and a lot of politicians can't even do that. When they're on the air, it's like hanging out with your friends, " Najera says. "It's not like preaching, it's like you're hanging out at a bar with your friends and telling them what hurts or worries you or makes you laugh. And then it doesn't end there. There's a way of saying, 'What's next?'"

For most Phoenicians, "Spanish radio" means getting an earful of ranchero music blasting from a car at a stoplight. Many people tend to tune it out — even Najera.

"I tend not to listen at all to Spanish radio. I don't listen to Radio Campesina so much. That's not my world," he says. "But El Break is my world, to a certain degree. I learn about the piece of me that didn't grow up in Mexico. I'm learning about a part of me I never knew about. I grew up in Arizona — my dad was one of the founders of Chicanos Por La Causa — so I've grown up around activism. But when I was growing up, there was a push to assimilate. And in doing so, we turned our backs on who we were. El Break is reclaiming that."

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."

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.

"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.

"It was very hard, but the good thing is when you have a good foundation, the rest of the people will follow. She made a good foundation," says Mayra Nieves, the station's programming director. "She wanted to serve the community and do programming that is interesting."

The new station was built on the idea of creating a bridge to the community — it even has a show that broadcasts Saturday mornings with the sole purpose of allowing callers to ring the host and practice speaking English.

"We want the community to know what Arizona is expecting of them, but also let tell Arizona who these people are and how they are benefiting Arizona," she says. "We are trying to create a dialogue. It's not so bad or awful — people are scared and we try and make something positive in their lives so they can smile and contribute to the community."

It was an idea Avila understood. He got together with his friend and former Nosotros y Tú partner, Tony Arias, and came up with a concept.

"Radio stations really suck. They are mostly national networks and don't talk to people from the community. I saw a need for our people to be given a place to talk," he says. "We created a network of young people and the network is about changing the way we communicate in Phoenix."


But before Avila could start communicating, he had to put together a cast of characters for the show. He and Arias started interviewing people at their favorite nightclubs — places like Sky Lounge and Club DWNTWN — trying to figure out what they'd like to hear.

They called a meeting of friends and acquaintances to see who wanted to be involved with the show. Arias invited his sister Gabby, and Avila invited his friend Nuvia Enriquez, who brought her friend Laura Suarez.

Around a table at Gold Bar coffee shop in Tempe, the concept for El Break was born.

Today's lineup includes the six original members, plus Avila's sister Diali, Sayra Sandoval, and Obed Hurtado. Avila compares El Break to Menudo (the Mexican boy band that gave the world Ricky Martin), and it's an apt comparison.

Each Breaker has a distinct personality. Tony Arias is the proud papa — his son Dante just turned 1 — given to blurting out random but funny non sequiturs. Gabby is quieter. Though given to a wisecrack here and there, she takes things more seriously. It's no coincidence that her segment on the show is about health care, one of the more serious topics they cover. Diali is the quietest of the group (possibly because she's also the youngest), though when she talks about music, she lights up. Ask her to suggest a band for you and she can rattle off several names, with her current favorite, Panda, at the top of the list.

Suarez and Enriquez are best friends, and look — and act — like they could also be related. Both are small and enthusiastic, but Enriquez is more emotional. Her eyes are sad when she talks about Mexico. Her sadness lingers even after she's moved on to happier conversation. If Enriquez brings soul to the show, her counterpart, Suarez, brings laughter. She claims to be shy, but she's always giggling, dancing, making the other Breakers smile.

The newcomers, Sayra Sandoval and Obed Hurtado, joined El Break late last year. The group teases Sandoval, in her Versace glasses, for being the most "Scottsdale" of the group, but she's not so much Valley girl as she is really well-adjusted to American culture. Hurtado, on the other hand, speaks with a thick accent and is more comfortable in Spanish (though his English is very good). If given the chance, he could charm just about anyone with his enormous smile. If you're a woman and he catches you on the dance floor, be prepared to blush. He is, as Suarez puts it, a very "sensual" dancer.

No one, save Avila, gets paid for El Break. Most are in school. They all have weekday jobs, from banker to construction foreman, but they all say they look forward all week to Sunday — El Break day.

Only two, Enriquez and Tony, are American citizens, though they say they feel more Mexican than American. Enriquez was born in Idaho and split her childhood between Mexico and Arizona. "I've always felt trapped here," she says of living in the United States. Enriquez is on the edge of her chair as she talks about how she once dreamed of becoming a Mexican citizen.

"I'm very patriotic to Mexico," she says. "My goal was to finish college over there and study acting. But then, I started getting involved in what I'm doing now, and it's not so much about me anymore. I would still love to live over there, but there's so much we can do here."

Tony was born in L.A. to undocumented parents, returned to Mexico as a baby, then came to America permanently when he was 8. He shares Enriquez's split feelings.

The others are permanent legal residents who immigrated here at different stages of their lives.

Diali, Avila's shy little sister, came with his mother legally, right before she turned 12. She graduated from high school this year, though she spoke only 10 words of English when she first arrived.

Suarez, an extremely energetic 21-year-old, just got her green card a year ago, though she's been legally documented since 1997. She came to Arizona when she was 3 with her mother and year-old sister. She doesn't remember much of the journey, except finally arriving at 52nd Street and McDowell in Phoenix.

"We crossed water. I know that. My uncle came to help with me so my mom could carry my sister. We got caught once and then waited in the night and we came walking," she says. "I know we crossed a river, but I don't know which one. Then we got here. It used to be weird to say that, but not so much anymore."

Gabby, 22, also came with her family when she was 3. She doesn't remember the move. Her father, who became a resident under the 1986 amnesty law, asked for her residency when she was 16. She's in the process of applying for citizenship. She quieter than most of the others and thoughtful about what it means to be a Mexican living in America.

"Being an immigrant didn't really affect me much, maybe because I was so young. It's affecting me more now," she says. "That's how El Break changed my life — I've become more aware of who I was."

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.

Like Sandoval, Hurtado is a newcomer to the show. The 30-year-old came to America from Michoacán about 10 years ago, riding a bus to the California border, and moved in with his brother. Today, he works as a foreman at a welding company and moonlights as an actor. He's El Break's party boy, covering nightlife in the Valley. But his usual huge smile falters a bit when he talks about coming to America.

"Well, life is hard. One way or another. Even with all these things happening here, we are better than in Mexico," he says. "We have to find a way to live with it or do something to make it better. That's one of the things El Break wants to do. To be behind the mic is a powerful weapon."


The mission to make things better started at that first meeting at Gold Bar. Avila explained his idea for a show that would reach Spanish-speaking youth, bringing them news and culture in a fun way. He knew Arias was onboard because they'd come up with the idea together. They asked the others to decide if they wanted to be involved and come up with ideas for segments.

Suarez recalls being hesitant. Though she was born in Mexico, she hardly spoke any Spanish. In fact, her first all-Spanish conversation didn't even happen until high school when Enriquez, her best friend, forced her to speak it by pretending not to know English.

"I freaked out and said I didn't want to do it. He said it was going to be all in Spanish and I grew up with nothing but English," she says.

But with Enriquez's prodding, she decided to do it. Her segment "Lo Que Piensa La Gente" ("What the People Think") involves asking questions that people in the community need answers for, but might be afraid to ask.

Enriquez and Gabby decided they'd be a part of it, too.

On January 6, 2006, El Break went live on the air for the first time.

"We were really nervous," says Avila. "We listen to it sometimes and, ugh, it's horrible."

Suarez laughs when she thinks about how scared she was.

"I remember sitting there and Luis saying, 'We are not going to help you.' I was like, 'I don't speak Spanish,'" she says. "Every five seconds I had to ask, 'Como se dice?'"

In the year and half El Break has been on the air, a lot has changed.

It has become more than a radio show and is known for putting on events for the community. In October 2006, the members of El Break traveled to a halfway house in Altar, Sonora, bringing supplies for immigrants preparing to cross the border.

When Proposition 300, which mandates that undocumented students must pay out-of-state tuition and are not eligible for financial aid that comes from state funds, passed in November 2006, they held a forum, broadcast live on La Buena Onda, to explain the law to undocumented students.

Enriquez orchestrated the forum. She feels it was a success — more than 100 students showed up — but she's disappointed there's been no mass movement for change among her peers. When she talks about it, tears well in her eyes.

"For me, the biggest thing about this is that something is getting started. As much as Luis tries to argue with me that there is a movement, I don't see it," she says. "What is upsetting is that we can do so much more. They are passing all these propositions, and what are we doing? We marched. That was it. There are so many other things we could be doing and yet we're stuck on the marching? People have lost faith in their leaders."

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.

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.

He mentions the possibility of El Break doing something similar.

"You guys have fun," Sandoval says, only half-joking.

Avila lets the idea rest for the night, but he's clearly still thinking about it, and, a few days later, El Break's biggest social awareness campaign — Paro Juvenile (Youth Strike) is born.

A week later, everyone — including Sandoval — has committed to the strike. Starting July 30, they intend to give up food for one full week. This is no sissy sunup to sundown fast, either; it's the real deal. Nothing but water until August 5.

Still, in tune with the way most Americans work, they aren't asking supporters to join them in their total hunger strike. Instead, El Break's tactic to raise awareness is to ask people to give up one thing they truly love, à la Lent.

Radio ads for the strike ask participants to "Join our youth strike and give up something you like in support of the DREAM Act. Don't eat chocolate, don't drink beer, don't go to the movies, don't play Xbox."

Two weeks before the strike begins, Avila, the Arias, Hurtado, Diali, and Suarez head out to University of Phoenix Stadium to pass out fliers and rally support outside the Copa Panamericana soccer tournament.

None of them is sure how they're going to last a week without food. Suarez has been to the doctor, who warned her to be careful.

"As soon as I'm hungry, I'm going to throw up," she says from the backseat of Avila's car.

Gabby is nervous too, but determined.

"It's a challenge. A way to see how powerful I am," she says. "If I can fast for a whole week, I can do anything."

Even Avila, the fearless leader, is worried, though he's also excited. He wishes it was time for the strike and is already wearing the green ribbon they will pass out to supporters during the strike, which ends on the first anniversary of Anaya's death.

El Break is going to set up shop at the hair salon where Avila's mom works, New Imagen, where they will spend the week bringing attention to their strike and to the cause.

Avila is holding Anaya's memory close as he prepares for the fast. He's nervous about going seven days without food, especially because he's in a play on the fourth day of the fast, but when he remembers his mission, he is less concerned.

"Isaac wouldn't have died if he could have gone to school," he says. "It's ironic. He's undocumented and wasn't allowed to go to school and he's buried here in Arizona. Not in Mexico, where they said he should be sent back to."

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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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