A lesser-known radio station in Wichita has become an oasis on the dial for those who don't speak English.
La Raza 99.7 FM is considered a vital information source for Wichita's Spanish-speaking community.
Claudia Amaro is the host of the station's night talk show, Planet Venus. On a recent Monday night, the topic is the importance of radio, with guests Tony Adame and Lili Nava, who both work at the station.
Amaro sits in front of her computer and her iPad scrolling through the Facebook live comments, all the while talking to listeners on the air.
She says La Raza is very important to the Latino community.
"People who come from other countries, they can feel a little bit of their country by calling and asking for their favorite song that maybe reminds them of their birthplace," Amaro says, adding that the station is sometimes "the only way they can get information about what's going on locally."
She created the talk show two years ago to help motivate -- and inform -- the community.
"Especially the Latino community," she says," because we don't have very many media in Spanish. We don't have any more newspapers in Spanish. The information is very limited in Spanish."
Spanish media in Wichita consists of one television station and two radio stations, but nothing like what Amaro does on Planet Venus. Business professionals, police officers and health providers are all guests on the talk show, the majority speaking in Spanish.
"We share [information on] health, education, just regular stories from people if they want to come and talk about business,"Amaro says. "They want to come and talk about something that they've been experiencing. ... This is space for our community, anything that they want [to] come and share."
In addition to airing on La Raza, the show also streams a live video on Facebook every Monday night, with about 1,000 viewers. Amaro says she's had listeners from Colorado and even Mexico.
"First when we started the show we were trying [to get] people to call the show and participate, and that happens sometimes," she says, "but people are on Facebook always asking questions, asking us to share information on our page, saying just, 'I love your show.' I enjoy that a lot too."
Typically the first 5 or 10 minutes of the radio show is for local events, like citizenship workshops.
"Claudia brings the events closer to the community," says Tony Adame, a former DJ who works in sales at the station and is a guest on Amaro's show. "She does what a lot of agencies don't do -- be able to contact the real people who needs the workshops, who really needs the service."
Adame says people find out about La Raza by flipping through the dial, or by word of mouth. And letting people know about local happenings and growing the audience is what La Raza is all about.
In Spanish, raza means "race," as in "my people." There are nearly 339,000 Hispanics living in Kansas. When she's not hosting her show, Amaro runs her own interpretation/translation business. She says when it comes to the economy, the Hispanic buying power is huge -- and the community as a whole is missing out.
"In Kansas the Latino purchasing power is $6.5 billion, and unfortunately that money is going to our national corporations, because I believe local businesses are not reaching out to the Latino community," Amaro says.
There are about 62,000 Hispanics in Wichita, most from Mexico or of Mexican descent. Collectively, their buying power is $2.2 billion. The Hispanic community has been called a "sleeping giant" for Wichita's economy.
"It's amazing the buying power the community has," Adame says, "because when we go somewhere, we go with the grandma, the neighbor, the dog, the kids, everybody comes around and we buy everything."
La Raza has been in business for four years now. While the radio station works to make known the economic benefits of doing business with Hispanics, Amaro says she'll do her part to keep the Spanish-speaking community uplifted and informed.
Carla Eckels is KMUW's director of cultural diversity and the host of Soulsations. Follow her on Twitter @Eckels.
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