Creating Mexico in "México de Afuera": Radio and Mexican Communities in the United States

Saturday, January 7, 2012: 9:00 AM
Chicago Ballroom G (Chicago Marriott Downtown)
Sonia Robles, Michigan State University
This paper explores the formation of a Spanish-speaking radio audience in the United States between 1930 and 1950.  Since the 1920s official and commercial Mexican radio programming intended to reach listeners in remote and distant locations.  As early as 1926, for instance, Mexican official station X.F.X. created broadcasts for the Mexican and Mexican-American population living in the United States.  This distinct audience of listeners, which ranged from New York to California, corresponded with Mexican government officials, radio operators and politicians about these transmissions which for the most part, included music that elevated patriotic sentiments.  Once these programs became less frequent as the decade progressed, Mexican listeners intercepted transmissions from Mexico in order to stay up to date on the cultural and musical innovations of the country or to maintain the practice of the Spanish language at home.  As a result, the Spanish-speaking and Mexican immigrant population developed their own musical tastes, programming and soon after radio broadcasters, like Pedro J. González, emerged in California and Texas.  González, who was the first Mexican radio broadcaster in the United States, popularized Spanish-language programming on English-language Southern California radio stations in the U.S. during the 1930s and saw his role as a radio announcer as an intermediary between Mexicans in the United States and Mexico.  By examining the motivation and actions of these radio producers and listeners, along with some of their radio broadcasts, this paper hopes to explain how radio as a transnational medium allowed Mexican entrepreneurs and leaders to create a faithful listening audience overseas and subsequently a unique form of cultural consumption among immigrants in the United States.