By Miguel Alejandro Ochoa
It’s 4:27 am.
The cheesy odors of a microwaveable breakfast burrito softly fill the room. A dimly lit laptop hums cautiously in the corner of my desk, while I put the finishing touches on today’s playlist. The Rockstar-addicted early birds are still quiet in their nests, and the late-night procrastinators have already passed out on top of their books. I’m the only one awake in my entire building, and through the eerie silence only one thing is on my mind: Why?
It all began last spring. I had just completed KUCI’s 10-week training course. I was looking for something new, and it came in the form of something as old as could be: my culture. That’s how Radio El Nopal was born, a music show dedicated to the many genres of Latin America. The title of the show roughly translates to “Radio The Cactus”. Despite the grammar, it’s actually a metaphor. I’ve always seen a cactus as a symbol of the Hispanic people – able to endure through tough times and beautiful under the right conditions.
After a few months, I added a news portion to the second half of my broadcast. This segment is dedicated to the news that affects Latinos, and while it’s still in it’s infancy, it has been greeted with a good reception thus far. A few weeks ago, while reporting on the upcoming elections in Guatemala following the former president’s arrest on charges of corruption, I got a call from someone in Santa Ana.
He said, “Hey man, I’m Guatemalan and I had no idea this was going on back home. You think I’d know more about my own country.”
There’s a dicho – a proverb that describes the reality of life for many Latinos living in America. Ni de aqui ni de alla. Not from here nor from there. I grew up in a city that was 75% Hispanic. For me and many kids like myself, Spanish was my first language—the only white kids at my school were the teachers’ kids. So you can only imagine the culture shock when I first came to the land of $2 Boba and Phở. The discomfort didn’t last long though. Since then I’ve become somewhat of a local – though I still put Tapatio on my sushi.
Still, it’s good to return to your roots, and that’s ultimately my goal with the show: to allow people who share my culture to tune in and feel at home. Only when our roots – nuestras raices – are sturdy may the tree of society grow. Only when appropriation turns into appreciation will the Latinos living here break out of their cultural shell. Only then will the flowers on the nopal bloom.