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THE SPANGLISH INVASIONKNAI DEBUTS THE VALLEY'S FIRST BILINGUAL RADIO SHOW IN YEARS

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Cortez, who works for Chicanos Por La Causa, a social-service agency, has his organization's backing. To further cement the relationship between itself and United Farm Workers, which owns Radio Campesina, CPLC will work with UFW to promote local barrio outreach efforts.

"That's why I put so much emphasis on this show," Cortez says before Sunday's show. "I know it will have that kind of power."
The weekend's mail includes a pair of letters addressed to "Jose Cortez, El Homeboy de Aztlan," the persona he has carried around all these years. The letters were postmarked August 4, the day before he actually went back on the air, from people who remembered his days at KVVA and KUKQ after that and heard he was returning.

Cortez still has the original flier for the KVVA show. It shows two pictures of him--one in tank-top tee shirt and bandanna, a homeboy leaning against a muraled wall on South Central Avenue; the other is the clean-cut, tie-knotted disc jockey smiling behind the console.

When he joined KUKQ, which was spinning funk in the mid-Eighties, he couldn't work much Spanish into his broadcast without catching flak from the higher-ups. Then, in 1987, the station dropped its dancing shoes for cowboy boots, and that was essentially that. (The station now plays alternative rock.) Cortez joined the ensuing exodus, and, after a couple of years, came to CPLC as an employment specialist.

Then Inghram went to Tucson and heard KOHT and said to himself, "Why can't that work here in Phoenix?"

But Valley Spanish radio stations, locked into their formats as tightly as their English counterparts, didn't take to the idea. They wanted to see lists of sponsors; they said they weren't really ready to try that kind of format yet.

"What we have right now has given me results," explains Mario Gonzalez, program director at KSUN, a Spanish-language station that plays a full-time blend of ranchera, norteo and banda. "We have a pretty good audience considering the competition." (There are currently five radio stations with at least part-time Spanish-language formats in the Valley.)

Inghram then came to Cortez, who was more than willing to do such a show, and with him as a selling point was able to talk KNAI into giving them a 3 to 5 p.m. slot on Saturday and Sunday.

About a half-hour into Sunday's show, Cortez plays the first of four songs by Selena, the tejano artist who was murdered in March. At 23, already a superstar in Latin America, Selena was on the verge of American mainstream success with the anticipated release of her first English-language recording. Ironically, with her murder, the crossover audience she was expected to reach sought out her music even more readily, and Dreaming of You broke first-day sales records.

If there was a silver lining to her death, the crossover of tejano was it. Stations with bilingual formats might be able to ride the coattails of that success. The tejano produced by artists like Selena and Barrio Boyz is a different animal from the kind done by Little Joe. The latter-day version is influenced more by cumbia and hip-hop, which just drives all the kids wild.

"Selena," Moreno muses. "She was hot, man. How short-lived . . ."
By the time Earth, Wind & Fire's "September" comes on a few songs later, though, Moreno is grooving in her chair. Inghram appears from outside with more news. "They're listening in California," he says.

"How can they do that?" Moreno says.
Inghram sniffs. "Dial the phone and put it next to the radio," he answers.
Oh, but, of course.

At her home in Phoenix, 18-year-old Veronica Torrez is listening, too. Since the beginning of the year, she's been trying to get someone to start a bilingual show, having heard one while traveling near the California-Mexico border.

"They have Power 92 here," she says, referring to the FM pop station, "but what do they have for us?"
But after hearing Cortez's inaugural show, she seems satisfied: "That's exactly what I wanted. I really liked it. My whole family did. I love oldies--that's what I grew up on."

If Torrez and her family are any indication of what's out there, Cortez and potential advertisers should be pleased.

"This caters to what we call the blossoming of the Hispanic American," says Ray Arvizu of Arvizu Promotions and Marketing in Phoenix. He notes the emergence of MTV-Latino, as well, a Spanish-video channel expected to hit Phoenix airwaves this fall. He figures advertisers would find the mix appealing because "you can advertise in English or Spanish--it doesn't matter."
Arvizu, who grew up listening to groups like Tower of Power, War and Malo, thinks the only way for the format to really work is for a station to devote its entire programming to it, like KOHT has in Tucson. "[The market] has been there, but nobody wants to take the chance. It takes some investment. Whoever does it full-steam is the one that's going to profit from it. I would listen to it on a daily basis."

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Marc Ramirez