Switch by radio station cut a vital link for many

On Monday evening, as I started my commute home, I was surprised to hear a Barry White song on my favorite radio station. It struck me because I listen religiously, every morning and night, to Viva 105.7, a popular Spanish-language station that plays contemporary Latin pop and rock hits.

Just that morning, like every other weekday morning, I’d listened to Panda and Brenda’s banter in their popular morning show. And, after a day at work, like every other weekday evening, I was expecting to hear the likes of Shakira, Enrique Iglesias, Daddy Yankee and other top Latin vocalists.

At first, I thought I had inadvertently moved my radio dial, but when I noticed that my dial was at 105.7, I started questioning my sanity. Maybe, perhaps, Viva was on 105.3, or 104.7. Wrong. Then I heard I was actually on Atlanta’s Groove 105.7. Don’t get me wrong. I love Groove’s music. But I didn’t want to listen to Groove and its “10,000 songs commercial free;” I wanted Viva.

I found out the next day that Viva, without any warning, was dropped off the air on Monday afternoon. While I could surely listen to my CDs or El Patron on 105.3, or even install XM Radio if I wanted Spanish-language music, I don’t want to.

I am not just upset that Viva has been taken off the air; I feel disheartened. I never expected that losing Viva would upset me so much. After all, it’s just a radio station that plays music in my native language. At home in Puerto Rico, I would probably never listen to it, but here, there are not many choices. (Viva was the first FM Spanish-language radio station when it launched; now only two remain but their format is Mexican regional music).

I feel out of place and sort of lost. I’ve lost a connection to Atlanta, where I have lived for more than nine years. Almost instantly, I feel like a foreigner in this city with a huge — and growing — Hispanic population from many Latin American countries. Viva was a link to my Hispanic identity in this city of transients. It was the familiarity of the Spanish language, a link to my culture in a day that is otherwise filled with English. Although Viva’s hosts were not very sophisticated and some parts of its programming were overtly tacky or kitschy, Viva was the familiar.

Even friends that I didn’t know listened to Viva are upset.

It is a disservice to the Hispanic community in Atlanta for Clear Channel Communications Inc. to have dropped Viva 105.7. Viva’s sibling station, El Patron, though also a Spanish-language music station, plays “rancheras” and other regional Mexican music, a totally different genre of music that appeals to a different audience. And La Raza 102.3 is not really an alternative to that format. It’s not clear why Viva was shut down; it had a huge audience, and it seemed like they were doing well, with tons of advertisers that included big, solid companies.

There is nothing out there for Viva listeners. It was equally popular with established professionals like me and my friends, who have been living in the states for years and feel comfortable in this culture. Now, there is no choice for those preferring a Spanish-language station. It’s like English-speaking people having only the choice of two polka stations.

“Rancheras” and regional Mexican fare are no way to make up for the loss of Viva. Viva has left a void. Advertisers trying to reach Hispanics have certainly lost a vital medium, while listeners have lost more than that.

Atlanta certainly has a big and diverse enough Hispanic community to necessitate a station of much wider appeal.

Writer Aixa Pascual lives in Roswell.