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La Voz: Airing the Desire for Community

NCM Profile

NCM, Peter Micek Posted: Jul 19, 2004

The motto, independent program for a demanding public, rhymes in Spanish, the language of the daily radio news program La Voz.

Airing each weekday across Northern California, La Voz, or the Voice, draws on the many years of experience of its two radio hosts and their producer. Most of their experience is in news broadcasting, a far cry from the morning circus shows -- You know, like Howard Stern -- on Spanish-language radio.

Unlike those entertainment programs, they say, La Voz spreads news and views. We believe the people need to be informed.

Operating out of a storefront in San Franciscos Mission District, Luis Quintanilla and Ivan Davila -- both originally from Nicaragua -- emcee while producer Marco Salazar works the sound board and answers the telephone. They transmit for two hours each morning on Radio 1010, a Bay Area Spanish-language AM station that broadcasts south to San Jose and east to Sacramento.

On air, their voices rise and fall merrily. In the studio, the men are sitting, standing, pacing, and constantly signaling to Salazar, who plays snippets of music -- from heavy metal to classic pop, some Latin, some not -- to break up the newscast.

The first hour of their news-type morning magazine show has local, national and Latin American current events with traffic and weather every 15 minutes. There is one half-hour debate on a current issue. The second hour features interviews and listener calls with local experts.

La Voz receives 50 to 60 calls every morning, said Quintanilla, from listeners trying to ask questions of the shows guests, win prizes, or suggest new tips.

Recently, La Voz featured an hour-long special on the late salsa Queen Celia Cruz.

Two San Franciscans who knew Cruz brought in a framed, autographed picture. Tell me what you felt when you received this picture, asked Davila, who later danced while Cruzs ballads and fiery salsa played on the air.

Salazar helped prepare pre-recorded commentary and interviews about the singer -- a Cuban version of Frank Sinatra, according to the broadcast. Celia Cruz is important to the Latino community, he said. Though she left the island of Cuba, she never forgot it.

Salazar worked on television and radio in his native Mexico before joining Quintanilla at San Franciscos Radio Unica in 2000. Radio Unica was bought by MultiCultural Radio Broadcasting this year and La Voz sprang up shortly afterward, in March 2004.

La Voz remains close to its home, San Franciscos largely Latino Mission District. To court advertisers, Quintanilla said, they often call business owners or travel to meet them in person. A recent program featured a local financial advisor receiving calls in the studio, joking with callers and the hosts about the latest Latin American soccer scores, between advertisements for his business.

The station is commercial, but also independent, they say. The first priority is not to make money, according to Salazar.

We are from the community, Quintanilla said, and we need to help the community, no matter what. That is our work. He said they would of course like to broadcast more than two hours per day. As it stands now, though, they put in long hours, especially before the Cruz special, when a computer had problems. During the show, a microphone repeatedly went quiet and they had to strike it to fix it.

But the three agree they have had success. They point to a debate, held the day after Mexico criticized Cubas human rights record at the United Nations.

Pro- and anti-Castro experts argued, Salazar said, and the Latino community called in with their opinions.

Those are the stories, Davila said, the facts we try to follow on our show.

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