Long Island Win‘s María del Mar Piedrabuena introduces us to Ana María Caraballo, a 29-year-old program director and on-air radio personality for WBON La Fiesta 98.5 FM out of Long Island. The Puerto Rican native calls Latinos a “melting pot” and works firsthand with the various nationalities that make up the local population.
With airwaves reaching as far as coastal Connecticut, La Fiesta has about 800,000 listeners every week. The station serves Spanish-speaking immigrants with music from their native countries, talk shows targeted to Latinos and information on immigration and local events.
La Fiesta is built on local advertisers, says owner John Caracciolo. When considering the number of Latinos in the area, local advertising seems to make sense.
With advertisers such as Huntington Honda, TD Bank, and the Long Island Ducks baseball team, this niche methodology is especially important for La Fiesta, the only Spanish-language radio station that reaches all of Suffolk County. There’s definitely an audience: Suffolk is home to 246,000 Latinos, or 16 percent of the total population, according to a recent Suffolk County Government Comprehensive Plan report. Of those Latinos, the Fiscal Policy Institute reported in a 2010 survey that about 170,000 are Spanish-speakers.
To Caraballo, who describes La Fiesta in the video above, the station bridges the distinct nationalities of Latin America found within Long Island. When Latino immigrants arrive in the United States, they’re often grouped as one — including in the way they’re counted, as evidenced above — but sometimes, a medium like La Fiesta can bring them together through mutual experiences and stories, while still respecting their many differences. For Caraballo, the radio station also represents a means for her to reach out to the Latino community regardless of where their roots lie.
Even though Caraballo was born in Puerto Rico, she now feels like an immigrant of many nationalities, thanks to the connection with her audience. Through her mid-afternoon show, “El Jangueo con Ana María,” she’s developed a relationship with her listeners, who share everything from their customs to their stories about coming to the U.S., and even worries about immigration or domestic disputes.
“People are always reaching out to me and I’m there for them,” she said. “If I see something of interest, like what happened with Marcelo Lucero, I get involved. I don’t do it for the cameras, I do it because that could have been me or my brother or my mother. If it’s in my power I’ll always help my community.”