About a third of the people living in the Roaring Fork Valley are Latino and in the Hispanic community many people use Spanish in their daily lives. This is also true for how the community consumes media. And yet the majority of media in the valley is in English, especially in the upper valley. On Wednesday (6-11-2014) Glenwood Springs' KQSE 94.5 FM will petition the Pitkin County Translator Advisor Board to bring its signal to the upper valley. The board oversees the selection of radio stations whose signals are retransmitted using a system of radio translators. APR's Roger Adams reports.
Choices for getting local news, information and entertainment in Spanish are limited in the valley. In Glenwood Springs, radio station KQSE 94.5 FM or as it’s known on air, La Nueva Mix, provides a full community service 24 hours a day in Spanish.
At La Nueva Mix, Program Director and host Axel Contreras blends many varieties of top Hispanic hits. From the start, Contreras along with a fellow programmer knew the station needed to serve listeners of many different nationalities.
“The other guy was from Mexico,” says Contreras. “and I’m from Guatemala. He as more for regional Mexican music and I was more for a mix. We have to do a mix of everything because, you know, I’m from Guatemala, I can listen to few songs but I’m not going to listen to the whole station, 24 hours.”
When the station went on the air five years ago there was virtually no local choice. And, the Internet aside, that’s still largely true.
“Its not like a big city with many choices,” Contreras explains. “Where if you want regional, you have regional. If you want something else, you have something else. Here, we were literally the only ones and we know we’re not pleasing everyone; but we try.”
Music selection might divide listeners but, the station is more than just a jukebox. Contreras has created a program schedule meant to serve the community’s need for information. Between music sets there are news and sports and specialty call-in shows about immigration issues. There is also daily community networking.
“I’ve got people calling me all the time, ‘Hey, we need some laborers, we need some carpenters, we are doing this and we need a chef.’ Stuff like that, ‘Can you give my number out?’ And most of these calls go on the air because when I’m on the air everything is live.”
The station is in a small storefront across from City Market in Glenwood Springs. The tiny studio has minimal equipment and there are no shelves of CD’s, let alone LP’s, but looks are deceiving. The station is linked by satellite and an Internet connection to vast resources from a Spanish language media service in Los Angeles.
Callers can request virtually any song ever recorded in Spanish and within seconds Contreras can pull it up from a database and have it on the air.
“You can hear a mariachi and then after that you can hear a salsa or a pop song or whatever.”
Several years ago the company that rates radio stations by how many listeners they have, folded the Roaring Fork Valley into the Denver Metro market. As a result it is nearly impossible to get accurate listener numbers for La Nueva Mix. But, using advertising as a measure, the station appears to be doing well. For the two weeks before we visited Contreras, the stations inventory was sold out.
Harry Sandell is the sales manager. He says its clear the Latino community had few other media outlets to turn to.
”Anywhere from 20 to 30 percent of our population is Hispanic,” Sandell says. “We could have put any kind of format on this radio station we wanted and we felt that the Hispanic market was greatly under-served.”
With that market in mind, Sandell says it was important to serve not only many nationalities but many age groups too. He describes the programming as family oriented which means among other things that La Nueva Mix will not play narco music. Narco corridos is a popular, largely youth oriented, genre that one might equate to rap or some styles of Reggae. The lyrics are about drug culture.
Axel Contreras is the driving force behind La Nueva Mix’s programming. He’s 37 years old and from Guatemala by way of California. He arrived in the valley in 1992 and long time listeners will remember that he once did a Latino show on Aspen Public Radio.
“Now I’m here at La Nueva Mix doing everything,” Contreras laughs. “Except sales.”
(Portions of this story were broadcast in September 2012.)