From a South Philly basement, Mexican immigrants broadcast globally online

     On a recent Tuesday evening, Javier Garcia Hernandez and his guests broadcast from the small studio of Philatinos Radio in South Philadelphia. (NewsWorks photo/ Emma Jacobs)

    On a recent Tuesday evening, Javier Garcia Hernandez and his guests broadcast from the small studio of Philatinos Radio in South Philadelphia. (NewsWorks photo/ Emma Jacobs)

    From the street, the tiny storefront on Ninth Street looks like a regular mobile phone store.

    But go through the door, and you’ll find the offices of a tax preparer, an accountant and a small newspaper publisher. Down a flight of narrow stairs to the unfinished basement, a few folding chairs sit around a table with microphones on stands next to a desktop computer

    This is the studio of Philatinos Radio, which broadcasts Spanish-language music and talk programming online for 50 hours a week that listeners can stream on their computers or smartphones.

    On Tuesday nights, Javier Garcia Hernandez hosts his weekly music and talk program, Arriba mis Paisanos, which translates roughly as “arise, my countrymen.”

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    A community organizer from Mexico who has lived in the United States for 25 years, Hernandez will sometimes host his colleagues in construction. This evening, three of them are at the microphones to talk about their lives as immigrants far from their hometowns and family members.

    Other weeks, he has representatives from city agencies who work with small businesses and attorneys from legal services organizations to talk about services available to his immigrant listeners.

    “Much of our community suffers,” he noted, “whether it is through wage theft, their employer’s not paying them or working [in] unsafe working conditions, for instance near electrical lines or up on heights where they don’t have fall protection […] whether they’re working in restaurants, whether there is domestic violence in the house. We want them to know there are many places they can go to.”

    Immigrants have traditionally been big radio listeners. Today, the widespread adoption of smartphones means an Internet radio station can serve its target audience without the trouble or expense of starting a traditional station.

    Founder Edgar Ramirez says Philatinos Radio serves a very different purpose from the big commercial Spanish stations, such as La Mega and El Zol, because, here, members of the community host all the shows.

    “They talk about what their neighbors are interested in,” he explained in Spanish. “Which are things as simple as how to find a place to go for medical care or for school.”

    The station airs a program hosted by three young mothers, who chat about entertaining their kids and where to enroll them in school. Another show offers English classes. On Wednesdays, Mexican journalist Leticia Roa Nixon presents the news.

    After a year on the air, the station has drawn a small audience of a couple thousand predominantly Mexican immigrants. However it reaches a wide area outside of the greater Philadelphia region. Ramirez points out that he has clusters of listeners in certain neighborhoods of Queens, Long Island and Miami.

    People living there originally came from same region of Mexico.

    For its audience back in Mexico, Philatinos Radio serves a different purpose. It’s somewhere they can tune in to hear their friends and relatives now living far from home.

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