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Radio Latina Shuts Down

Pioneering radio station closes doors as a result of financial difficulty.

Radio Latina, a groundbreaking Hispanic radio station in Arlington, bid its final farewell to the airwaves on June 23.

An affiliate of the Univision Television Network, the station had been experiencing financial difficulties, said Arlington County spokeswoman Serena Ingre-Martinez. For the past six months, there had been an issue with the owners regarding the radio station's vision, and this, coupled with the expensive cost for rent, ultimately led to Radio Latina's demise.

RADIO LATINA entered the world of commercial radio in December 2004, and its approach was unique from the start. The station made it part of its mission to champion the Virginia Latino community's success. The station's directors recognized the importance of instilling pride in Latin American culture, in addition to imparting knowledge about American society.

"We want to make the community grow and assimilate, to give them tools that enable them to grow as individuals," said Jose Semidey, president of Radio Latina.

The station's format was interactive and included political programs, sports segments and a show devoted to international news. Radio Latina also created a program that covered a basic history of the United States. In the works was a bilingual show run entirely by teenagers, with little or no adult intervention. "We are a radio station open for participation from the public," Semidey said.

As recently as May 2006, Radio Latina was continuing to thrive and take steps to broaden its audience with the addition of the family oriented "Cuentos y Mas" program. Produced by county-owned Arlington Virginia Network in conjunction with the library system, "Cuentos y Mas" had found a new outlet on the station, airing half-hour shows Saturdays at 9:30 a.m.

Hosted by Mariela Aguilar, it was instrumental in enabling Spanish-speaking children to hone their English skills, while at the same time broadening their appreciation for Spanish culture. "It is a way for kids to feel proud of their roots," Aguilar said.

Putting together Cuentos y Mas was just another demonstration of Radio Latina's dedication and enthusiasm for achieving its goal of providing listeners with a different flavor of commercial Hispanic radio.

Aguilar worked closely with Radio Latina’s general manager, Giovanna Tassi. Cooperation was key to the show’s success, Aguilar said. "Giovanna told me, ‘Your voice is the brush to make the whole painting, to make the kids see all the beautiful things.’ It is a product full of magic ... that goes beyond the stories."

THE BRAINS behind "Cuentos y Mas" believed airing the show was just the tip of the iceberg when it came to what it could accomplish. Semidey stressed the importance of the station’s goal of reaching out to the Latino community.

"We try to give the audience different things other than music," he said.

Aguilar said she may try to get another radio station to pick up "Cuentos y Mas."

"We won’t quit the project because it’s important to encourage reading among the community," she said.

However, don't discount Radio Latina just yet. As it had demonstrated since 2004, the radio station and its directors are nothing if not a resourceful, spirited group. This initial setback may just end up being a motivating factor.

"We are thinking about something ... I'm not authorized to talk about it at this point, but we want to come back on air in some way ... maybe through the Internet," Tassi said.