CUARENTA AÑOS • Hartford's first Spanish programmers are still at it
January 13, 2009
Four decades ago, Omar Aguilera sensed an opportunity. The former Argentine soccer player realized the Latino community in Greater Hartford was growing quickly but had few Spanish-language media options.
Mr. Aguilera and his partner, fellow Argentine Walter Martinez, started the area's first Spanish radio program, a half-hour show on WRYM-AM (840) in Newington. Now the station broadcasts in Spanish 24 hours a day (with Polish and Italian programs on Sunday). Remarkably, the two partners are still at it. Mr. Martinez moved back to Argentina for a time, but has returned to work at the station.
Mr. Aguilera never left. He is still the program director and one of the best-known people in the region's burgeoning Latino community. Mr. Aguilera "is at all the special events. Everybody knows him. He is the public face of the station," said Hartford educator and activist Edwin Vargas.
"He is an icon in our community," said Julio Mendoza, executive director of the Spanish American Merchants Association. "He's been in it for the long run. He's always there when you need him."
Mr. Aguilera, widely praised for his wit and work ethic, has seen the community grow from a relatively small group from Puerto Rico and Cuba to a much larger and broader tapestry of Mexicans, Peruvians, Dominicans, Colombians, Nicaraguans and others. There are now many other Spanish media outlets, as well as many more Latino-owned businesses. It is thanks to pioneers such as Mr. Aguilera and Mr. Martinez that their community has grown to be a vital and integral part of Greater Hartford. We salute them on their 40th anniversary.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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