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Sounds of Belonging

Sounds of Belonging: U.S. Spanish-language Radio and Public Advocacy

Dolores Inés Casillas
Copyright Date: 2014
Published by: NYU Press
Pages: 224
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  • Book Info
    Sounds of Belonging
    Book Description:

    The last two decades have produced continued Latino population growth, and marked shifts in both communications and immigration policy. Since the 1990s, Spanish- language radio has dethroned English-language radio stations in major cities across the United States, taking over the number one spot in Los Angeles, Houston, Miami, and New York City. Investigating the cultural and political history of U.S. Spanish-language broadcasts throughout the twentieth century,andnbsp;Sounds of Belongingandnbsp;reveals how these changes have helped Spanish-language radio secure its dominance in the major U.S. radio markets.andnbsp;Bringing together theories on the immigration experience with sound and radio studies, Dolores Ines Casillas documents how Latinos form listening relationships with Spanish-language radio programming. Using a vast array of sources, from print culture and industry journals to sound archives of radio programming, she reflects on institutional growth, the evolution of programming genres, and reception by the radio industry and listeners to map the trajectory of Spanish-language radio, from its grassroots origins to the current corporate-sponsored business it has become. Casillas focuses on Latinos' use of Spanish-language radio to help navigate their immigrant experiences with U.S. institutions, for example in broadcasting discussions about immigration policies while providing anonymity for a legally vulnerable listenership.andnbsp;Sounds of Belongingandnbsp;proposes that debates of citizenship are not always formal personal appeals but a collective experience heard loudly through broadcast radio.

    eISBN: 978-0-8147-6036-9
    Subjects: Law, Anthropology, History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-xii)
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
  5. Introduction: Public Advocacy on U.S. Spanish-Language Radio
    (pp. 1-20)

    On May 21, 2007, Governor Bill Richardson of New Mexico formally announced his candidacy for the presidency of the United States. Notably, Richardson did not declare his intentions in his home state of New Mexico; rather the announcement was made over the airwaves of La Raza (97.9 FM), a Los Angeles–based Spanish-language radio station. To a syndicated listenership of nearly three million, Governor Richardson, in his native Spanish, explained to radio show host El Cucuy (“The Bogeyman”), “Con orgullo, espero ser el primer presidente latino de los Estados Unidos” (“With pride, I hope to be the first Latino president...

  6. 1 Acoustic Allies: Early Latin-Themed and Spanish-Language Radio Broadcasts, 1920s–1940s
    (pp. 21-50)

    As early as the 1920s, and long before Carmen Miranda mesmerized Americans with her tutti-frutti hat, U.S. radio listeners tuned into programs intended to charm and culturally enlighten English-speaking American audiences.1 Before President Franklin Roosevelt popularized the Good Neighbor Policy in 1933, U.S. radio had already begun to broadcast on-air profiles of Latin America.² Different U.S. radio programs in popular prime-time slots posed as romanticized “borderless” sites where cultural groups traversed geographical and cultural boundaries. “Travel” to long distance locales, without the ease of commercial flight, was largely limited to the imaginative ear. With radio financed by U.S. government and...

  7. 2 Mixed Signals: Developing Bilingual Chicano Radio, 1960s–1980s
    (pp. 51-82)

    In 1972, at the public request of a group of farmworkers and Sonoma State University undergraduate students, the late senator Ted Kennedy arranged to have a helicopter transport a much-needed radio antenna to the top of Mount Saint Helena. Soon after, KBBF-FM made its radio debut as the first bilingual community radio station that, according to station cofounder Guido del Prado, operated for and by working-class hippies, Chicanos, and Mexicanos.¹ Recognized as La Voz del Pueblo (The People’s Voice), KBBF-FM broadcasts from Santa Rosa, California, a community thirty miles north of San Francisco. A gesture of political solidarity by Kennedy,...

  8. 3 Sounds of Surveillance: U.S. Spanish-Language Radio Patrols La Migra
    (pp. 83-100)

    Utterances of immigration and the immigrant experience are repeatedly heard on Spanish-language radio, often voiced live with a tenor of urgency and well outside the lyrical boundaries of song.¹ Both commercial and community-based radio stations routinely feature a live call-in segment with a guest expert, be it a doctor, social worker, nutritionist, or the occasional politician. Yet clearly a guest immigration attorney consistently attracts a high volume of caller participation. As one radio host shared with me, “The lines light up like a Christmas tree well before we say ‘OK, we welcome your calls.’”² Depending on the particulars of the...

  9. 4 Pun Intended: Listening to Gendered Politics on Morning Radio Shows
    (pp. 101-126)

    In September 2008, Spanish-language radio station 97.9 FM (KLAX) bid farewell to its beloved morning host Renán Almendárez Coello, recognized to millions as El Cucuy de la Mañana (“The Morning Bogeyman”). Los Angelenos tuned in to chuckle Monday through Friday as each day the radio host nudged millions of listeners out of bed, as early as five o’clock, to send them off to their jobs, to earn the U.S. dollar, and then to promptly send it back home. Record-setting numbers of audiences found solace through humor listening to El Cucuy recount his legal, financial, and emotional sagas of living in...

  10. 5 Desperately Seeking Dinero: Calculating Language and Race within Radio Ratings
    (pp. 127-146)

    In 2001, a puzzled official from Arbitron—the premiere radio ratings service—phoned Radio Nueva Vida station manager Mary Guthrie and asked, “Who are you guys?” Radio Nueva Vida received a debut ranking of thirty-five in popularity among some eighty Los Angeles–based radio stations and held an impressive third place in the category of “listener loyalty.”¹ The success of Radio Nueva Vida signaled the rising trend of U.S. Spanish-language radio, particularly within the number one radio market of Los Angeles, joining the then twenty other Spanish-language radio stations courting the region’s 45 percent Latino listenership.² Arbitron’s bafflement, however, underscores...

  11. Afterword
    (pp. 147-152)

    In February 2006, I heard El Cucuy (“The Bogeyman”) give orders to dispatch the radio show’s roving unit, the Cucuy-Móvil (“Cucuymobile”), to Sacramento. He assured his morning listeners that theEl Cucuy de la Mañanashow would provide live legislative updates from the steps of California’s capitol. The Móvil’s official send-off notified listeners familiar with the show that political anxieties over the controversial Real ID Act had escalated. As a part of a Homeland Security effort, the Real ID Act mandated that all Americans obtain a federally approved ID card to obtain government services.¹ The Cucuy-Móvil, generally reserved for on-site...

  12. NOTES
    (pp. 153-182)
    (pp. 183-206)
  14. INDEX
    (pp. 207-220)
    (pp. 221-221)