Radio Waves


When I talk of being born and raised in Monterrey, Mexico, people don't usually picture me growing up listening to Motown music. But it's true, because Chicago was my mother's birthplace and where she grew up. So we grooved to Smokey Robinson long before I even knew what a cumbia was.

Soon enough I would learn. Music in Mexico is inescapable; it is everywhere. On the streets, pouring out of kitchen windows, riding the bus with you in the form of a young child with a small guitar. My most cherished memories of Monterrey are of the parties and dancing with boys. No party ended before every single person danced to Pesado or El Poder del Norte.

It is no wonder music can be so meaningful to people. It can take us to a moment in a distant past where the same song was playing. It can mentally transport us from one country to another.

With this in mind, I bring you my first Sky Blue Window blog, which is a guide to Indianapolis' Spanish radio stations. But please take note: It must be used wisely. For if you close your eyes and swoon for too long you might find yourself in a town plazita, sipping on a michelada.

  • Illustration by Jennifer Delgadillo
  • Titled "Radio Dreams"

Radio Latina 107.1 FM is my favorite station, because it plays regional Mexican music, including Banda, Cumbia and Ranchera. Ranchera music in particular has a very organic sound to it. The guitars are often accompanied by raw vocals that unapologetically sing about feelings, using analogies and metaphors. You might have heard a Mexican native break into "grito" in the middle of a Ranchera (Aaaaaaah ha haHAyeeeeee!) -- overcome with emotion; pride, pain, nostalgia. Cumbia music tends to be more playful and often employs the accordion as a means to get you to the dance floor -- to twist and turn, holding your dance partner's hands and shoulders. That way when the music slows down, you can just tenderly rest your head on your partner's shoulder. Banda music is a spectacle of brass and percussion instruments that sounds like saucy polka. Any song covered in the banda style is a good song in my book. I like to tune in to this station when I am feeling especially nostalgic; when I am cooking, while driving around unfamiliar areas, and in the month of September, right around Mexico's Independence Day.

Pescador Radio 810 AM is Indianapolis' Spanish Christian Music Station. While I am not a listener, I have to admit that in between changing radio stations I have had flashbacks to sitting through mass back in Mexico, watching my sister make funny faces at me from the other side of the church pew, and my mother pinching my leg so I wouldn't laugh.

EXITOS 1590 AM Tuning in to 1590 on the AM dial in the summer takes me back to the nights at the kermesse (festival); hundreds of plastic balloons carried by a single man, cotton candy and churros, knockoff Barbies, and loteria. It is a contemporary music station that stays current with Spanish Pop music, while also throwing Latin America's favorite pop oldies into the mix. You can run into anything ranging from saccharine ballads with lots of heartfelt keyboard, to fun merengue/pop fusions, alternative rock and Bachata. This radio station is by far the most eclectic one. Dancing while listening to this station is guaranteed.

And there you have it -- a primer to Indy's Mexican radio stations and an invitation to explore some music and dance that might be new to you. Enjoy!

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