Sounds of Belonging: U.S. Spanish-Language Radio and Public Advocacy

Sounds of Belonging: U.S. Spanish-Language Radio and Public Advocacy

Sounds of Belonging: U.S. Spanish-Language Radio and Public Advocacy

Sounds of Belonging: U.S. Spanish-Language Radio and Public Advocacy


Winner, Book of the Year presented by the American Association of Hispanics in Higher Education

Honorable Mention for the 2015 Latino Studies Best Book presented by the Latin American Studies Association

The last two decades have produced continued Latino population growth, and marked shifts in both communications and immigration policy. Since the 1990s, Spanish-language radio has dethroned English-language radio stations in major cities across the United States, taking over the number one spot in Los Angeles, Houston, Miami, and New York City. Investigating the cultural and political history of U.S. Spanish-language broadcasts throughout the twentieth century, Sounds of Belonging reveals how these changes have helped Spanish-language radio secure its dominance in the major U.S. radio markets.

Bringing together theories on the immigration experience with sound and radio studies, Dolores Inés Casillas documents how Latinos form listening relationships with Spanish-language radio programming. Using a vast array of sources, from print culture and industry journals to sound archives of radio programming, she reflects on institutional growth, the evolution of programming genres, and reception by the radio industry and listeners to map the trajectory of Spanish-language radio, from its grassroots origins to the current corporate-sponsored business it has become. Casillas focuses on Latinos' use of Spanish-language radio to help navigate their immigrant experiences with U.S. institutions, for example in broadcasting discussions about immigration policies while providing anonymity for a legally vulnerable listenership. Sounds of Belonging proposes that debates of citizenship are not always formal personal appeals but a collective experience heard loudly through broadcast radio.


On May 21, 2007, Governor Bill Richardson of New Mexico formally announced his candidacy for the presidency of the United States. Notably, Richardson did not declare his intentions in his home state of New Mexico; rather the announcement was made over the airwaves of La Raza (97.9 FM), a Los Angeles–based Spanish-language radio station. To a syndicated listenership of nearly three million, Governor Richardson, in his native Spanish, explained to radio show host El Cucuy (“The Bogeyman”), “Con orgullo, espero ser el primer presidente latino de los Estados Unidos” (“With pride, I hope to be the first Latino president of the United States”). Political pundits either qualified his announcement as unconventional or focused exclusively on his English-language speech given later at the glitzier venue of Los Angeles’s Biltmore Hotel.

Governor Richardson’s remarks, announced live on Spanish-language radio, set the stage for the contested California primary season . . .

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