Ke Buena, Spokane’s First Spanish Language Commercial Radio Station, Reflects Growing Community | Arts & Culture | Spokane | Interior of the Pacific Northwest

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Photo of young Kwak

Rafael Cárdenas interviews Latinos in Spokane co-founder Jennyfer Mesa by phone during La Voz del Pueblo.

RAfael Cárdenas’ mother wanted him to be a priest, but the young boy from western Michoacán, Mexico, had other ideas. Although he was committed to serving the community and was a reader of the scriptures during Sunday mass, Cárdenas aspired to be an engineer or a similar profession.

In a way, mamá prevailed.

The best part of his job as a radio DJ is connecting and encouraging people, says Cárdenas, who has spent almost 30 years with various entirely Spanish radio stations in Tri-Cities. In July 2020, he helped launch the Spokane-based Spanish-language radio station Ke Buena and is its lead DJ.

Ke Buena is familiar for “it’s okay,” according to Ben Reed, who runs the station from his southern Idaho home and whose distinct baritone can sometimes be heard on the air.

Broadcasting on FM 95.7 and AM 1330, Ke Buena is the first truly local Spanish-language commercial radio station in the Northwest Interior, but not the first of its kind. radio station in Spokane. From 2014 to 2016, KMBI broadcast in Spanish – coincidentally on the same frequency as Ke Buena – with content sourced from its nonprofit owner, Moody Bible Institute. KMBI eventually became the rock station KYOZ, or OZ 95.7, but when that station closed in June 2020, it opened the door to new ownership and a new format.

Ke Beuna is a mix of locally produced and subscribed shows. On weekends, for example, Cárdenas welcomes La Voz del Pueblo, or “La Voix du Peuple”, from 10 am to 11 am. It is co-sponsored by two local awareness-raising organizations, Mujeres in Action (Women in Action) and the Comunidad Cristiana de Spokane Church (Christian Community of Spokane). A third of an hour is also available – free of charge – to local organizations, such as Latinos en Spokane and Spokane Association of Hispanic Business Professionals, whose message is aimed at the Spanish-speaking community.

After Cárdenas’ morning show on weekdays, Ke Buena fills the airwaves with subscribed shows. MLC Media The Numero Uno 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. is predominantly contemporary Mexican music, while from 2:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. Hispanic artist Oswaldo Diaz plays three radio personalities for Entravision’s popular comedy show called Erazno and La Chokolata.

During the day, listeners within 60 miles of the Spokane transmitter should be able to hear both FM and AM broadcasts, which are also available online at At night, Ke Buena’s AM signal and coverage drop about 10 miles in all directions.

Click to enlarge Cárdenas (left) and La Voz del Pueblo co-host Luis Hernandez - YOUNG KWAK PHOTO

Photo of young Kwak

Cárdenas (left) and La Voz del Pueblo co-host Luis Hernandez

Bbefore launching Ke Buena, Reed says the research has revealed a growing Spanish-speaking market in the Northwest Interior. Census data, reports from Nielsen and other sources suggest that potentially 50,000 people within listening range of Ke Buena speak Spanish, says Reed, who grew up in Spanish in Arizona.

In many Latinx communities, radio is culturally more important than in other communities, says Reed.

“It has the same appeal as it did with the Anglos 40-50 years ago,” says Reed, who hosted a radio show while living in Argentina, and lived, taught, and graduated in theology while living in Argentina. living in Mexico, where he retains dual nationality.

“His Spanish is perfect,” Cárdenas says with awe of Reed, whom he met in 2015 when Cárdenas was DJing at a Tri-Cities station known as La Ley.

Then like today, the two men are better known by their nicknames. The reed is El Chupacabra, the mythical creature believed to suck blood (chupa) from cattle, including goats (cabras).

Cárdenas’s nickname has also been the name of his radio shows: Pichakuas, a word beyond the capabilities of Google Translate (and this writer).

Luckily, we meet at Marando’s Bar & Restaurant, where Cárdenas and a few friends await the start of the FIFA World Cup qualifiers between USA and Mexico (USA won the game). Marando co-owner Mario Ruiz provides assistance: As Cárdenas makes a jumping motion with his hand, Ruiz explains that pichakuas relates to a happy bird.

Cárdenas earned the nickname of foreman in the apple orchards of central Washington, where he had worked in the mid-1980s. He had hoped to earn enough money to return to Mexico, but instead found his voice as an advocate. Spanish speakers and culture.

He paraded with activist Cesar Chavez (Martin Luther King is another of his idols) and got involved in local radio, first as a volunteer, then as a paid DJ in 1991 with KDNA at Tri -Cities. He worked in several other stations, including La Reyna. And he talked about the treatment of undocumented workers.

“Some people are afraid to speak in public,” Cárdenas says, “but I like it.”

Thus, every morning of the week, he rises well before dawn to greet the listeners on El Show de Pichakuas, from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. It plays music and reads the weather, traffic and local headlines. He also shares a daily motivational read.

“That’s my favorite thing,” Cárdenas says. “I like helping people, raising them.” ??

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