New Spanish radio station El Puente is bridging Eagle County’s cultural divide
New offering at 102.1 seeks to connect cultures and generations
Pauline Araujo Agoitia, manager and on-air host of the valley’s new Spanish radio station 102.1 El Puente, loves to tell stories.
She told a story Wednesday about some young women who were cooking a ham with their grandmother, and, to the grandmother’s surprise, they began to cut the sides off of the ham.
When their grandmother asked them why they would do that, the women responded that, as children, they had always seen her do the same. They wanted to prepare the ham as she did, they explained.
“And she said, ’That’s because I didn’t have a pan big enough to fit the ham,’” Araujo Agoitia said, laughing.
Bridging the gap
This story is simple and “a little silly,” Araujo Agoitia said, but it demonstrates how lack of communication leaves room for assumptions.
In the case of the Eagle River Valley, the lack of communication and connection between residents who speak English and those who speak Spanish has done just that, she said.
“A lot of our disconnection right now, it’s because we don’t know each other,” she said. “And so, what we don’t know, we are afraid of.”
With this disconnect, a conversation in another language breeds the assumption that someone is talking about you and a disengaged or quiet parent breeds the assumption that the parent does not care, Araujo Agoitia said.
This problem and the potential to solve it was what led to the launch of the valley’s newest Spanish radio station, 102.1 El Puente. The station is now under new ownership after Steve Leigh finalized a deal this week to buy Rocky Mountain Radio Group’s three stations to create KNS Broadcasting.
Leigh, formerly a morning DJ with KZYR The Zephyr, obtained ownership of KZYR as well as The Mile and El Puente on Wednesday, he said.
He said he is proud of the mission of El Puente, which seeks to bridge cultural and generational divides.
“The name says it all in that it’s a bridge,” Leigh said.
El Puente, Spanish for “the bridge,” serves a local population that is traditionally underserved by other radio stations, Leigh said, and a growing population at that, Araujo Agoitia said.
Hispanic or Latinx residents make up 30% of Eagle County, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. In Avon, that number is 40% and, in Gypsum, 35%.
These numbers are thought to be a low indicator of the true percentage of the population that identifies as Hispanic or Latinx given some instances of hesitancy to share information with the U.S. Census Bureau.
‘Music that brings memories’
The story of Eagle County can’t be told without Latinx immigrants and Spanish speakers, but immense social and cultural divides remain, Araujo Agoitia said.
“We’re not going to go anywhere, we’re staying here,” she said. “We’re part of this community … So, again, we need to bridge that gap.”
The station was launched Jan. 28 by Rocky Mountain Radio Group after previous owner Gary Schwedt, whose mother is Mexican, saw the need to bring people together in his community, Araujo Agoitia said. Schwedt, along with Tony Mauro, got the project up and running.
Leigh described the station as a “local audio gathering place,” community radio as it should be.
The station plays a mix of Latinx music and pop with songs by anyone from Bad Bunny to Madonna to Maroon 5 and from anywhere from the United States to Mexico to Argentina.
Music that makes you dance or tap your feet or say ’oh yeah, I love this song,’ Araujo Agoitia said.
“Music that brings memories,” she said.
El Puente is trendy and speaks to the younger generation, but the mix of the old with the new is very purposeful, said Leslie Martinez, who hosts one of the station’s shows.
“I have heard the kids say ’Oh, this music — my mom used to play this when I was younger,’” Araujo Agoitia said. “It’s about bringing our different generations together, too.”
In this way, the station shares information about Mexico and Latin American culture with those outside of it, but also helps the valley’s Latinx youth reconnect with where they come from, she said.
Martinez hosts a show on El Puente called “Vida Change” every Friday at 12 p.m. in which she invites locals to come share their stories and life experiences.
The concept is simple — you don’t have to be anyone who holds a title of importance or has some specific area of expertise, you just have to come and talk and be you, she said.
The idea came to her during the COVID-19 pandemic, Martinez said.
“I felt it was important for people to hear other people’s stories because essentially we all go through troubles but some of us don’t talk about it,” she said. “We think it’s just us.”
During her time on air, Araujo Agoitia can be heard interviewing local business owners, elected officials and nonprofit leaders, among others.
She talks to her listeners about anything from social services and public health resources to local sales and soccer tournaments.
Araujo Agoitia was born and raised in Mexico City before coming to the valley as a student on a J-1 Visa in 1999, she said.
In many ways, she personifies the mission of the station she has set out to run. She, like many immigrants in the valley, is asked to explain her culture and how it makes her who she is on a near daily basis, she said.
She said she is encouraged by those who share in El Puente’s vision of making cross-cultural connection a shared endeavor. To her, this looks like a genuine effort to understand the challenges others face and the experiences, big and small, that make them who they are.
“We’re all humans, we’re all friends, all moms or dads or sisters,” she said. “We can all help each other. We need each other.”
Email Kelli Duncan at email@example.com