En El Otro Lado takes us cerca de la frontera, or near the border, to San Diego for a closer look at the hardships Mexican immigrants face. ¡Ahora Sí! profiles Armando Morales, a pioneer in the fight for diversity in Eugene’s media. Petit Pois, Quisantes, Chicaros, Arvejas, También displays the challenges and benefits of being multiethnic and multilingual. Collectively, these three features provide a look at the mezcla cultural between Mexico and the United States and remind us of the importance of tolerance.
Armando Morales moved to the United States from Guanajuato, Mexico in 1978, in search of opportunity and in pursuit of love. He followed the love of his life to Eugene, Oregon, where he began his education. For ten years he lived as an illegal immigrant, before becoming a citizen in the late 1980s.
After attaining his GED and attending community college, Morales received his bachelor’s degree in Anthropology and Spanish from the University of Oregon.
He went on to complete his master’s at the UO. When he was finished, he dedicated his life to music. Morales formed a band called The Sanduga, and traveled and played music over the next 12 years.
In 1983, he began to participate with KLCC, a local public radio station licensed to Lane Community College in Eugene. KLCC hosted a Latino show called ¡Ahora Sí! Soon after he began volunteering for KLCC, the hosts of ¡Ahora Sí! decided it was time to move on from the show, and Morales was first to jump on the opportunity.
Some callers, he explains, swear at him and demand him to stop speaking in Spanish. He has been told, “This is America where people speak English.”
At the time, it was the only show that offered a voice in Spanish.
“I had an idea of what kind of music I wanted to have, which was folk, but when I got involved with the community here in Oregon I realized it is different; it is not only people from Mexico but Bolivia, El Salvador, Nicaragua, all over. I decided to put all this kind of music together in one program,” Morales says.
For the first ten years, Morales ran his show the exact same way. The hour would start off with folk, then salsa, and end with romantic music. For a long time, he and his wife were the only ones working on the show.
But by 2004, he realized he needed help. He invited a few students from the University of Oregon to join the crew. These students created their own show called ¡Porque No!, which is ¡Ahora Sí!’s opener. They play mainly tropical music, eventually transitioning to folk and romantic.
Morales’ daughter is 18-years-old and about to graduate from Oak Hill School. She has been helping her dad out on the show for seven years. From the beginning, she has been speaking on the radio, and now she laughs about the changes over the years.
“You can listen back to old tapes and hear how my voice has changed since I was 11,” she says.
Morales has been running his show for over 20 years. He has received all kinds of feedback, both positive and negative. Morales says that the negative feedback doesn’t hurt him, but what does hurt him are racist phone calls that the show receives. Some callers, he explains, swear at him and demand him to stop speaking in Spanish. He has been told, “This is America where people speak English.”
He takes this gracefully, however, realizing that there are always going to be people who don’t appreciate you or your culture.
“There is 90 percent good feedback, and ten percent bad, but I focus on the good; that’s what’s important,” Morales says.
Morales is aware of the influence he has being on the radio. He is careful with whom he allows to speak on his show. Although almost everyone who helps out has a chance to speak, it has taken a lot to prove they are ready.
Each has had to spend at least one year learning how to handle the equipment and observing how the show is run before they are ready to have their voices broadcasted.
“The radio is a powerful instrument. People on the radio have the power to do many things, politically and culturally,” Morales says. “You need to be careful, and consider the interest of the person you are putting in such power.”
In addition to music, Morales’ show also involves discussions about the community. The program offers news about immigration laws, licensing, locations of meetings and cultural events.
“Anything that is happening in Oregon, the U.S., Latin America, all around the world.” Morales says.
Morales has the show set up in both Spanish and English. He says it’s difficult to run a bilingual radio show.
“You need to get the timing perfect, there has to be an agreement between switching from Spanish to English. “Everything is said in both languages, it is a very smooth
transition,” Morales says.
Morales smiles as he watches his students gracefully run his radio show. It’s like a carefully synchronized dance when they quietly signal to each other to switch between speakers. The transition is smooth and Morales is pleased.
“The radio is a powerful instrument. People on the radio have the power to do many things, politically and culturally,” Morales says.
He has taught them well.
There are only two shows in Eugene that reach out to the Latino community. It’s important to Morales to connect with his community like he does.
“We are breaking the stereotype. People say that we are taking American jobs but here we are proving that we aren’t just doing that. We’re giving back to our community,” Morales says.
“It’s a little stone to make some change. To say we exist. We are the spice of this society, the condiment, [if] you don’t have a condiment the food is not going to taste good!”
Please Note: Due to a misprint, Susannah bard was not credited in the printed version of this article. Susannah has been properly credited in the online version.