Tuesday, August 22, 2006
A Voice for Latinos
Santa Ana man is the No. 1 morning radio host in Southern California, with an audience of millions.
By CINDY CARCAMO
The Orange County Register
SANTA ANA - Before he became Southern California's No.1 morning disc jockey, Eduardo Sotelo hoped for the impossible. The 7-year-old grew up in a family that barely earned enough to eat. Still, he yearned for a bicycle he could ride to school.
Selling lemon ice cream in front of his home in Ocotlán, Mexico, wasn't going to cut it. So he scored a job at a bicycle shop, making about five pesos every two weeks. Three pesos went to his mother. The rest funded one bicycle part each payday. The flashy pedals. The rims. The handlebars. A year later he had built his dream – a burgundy bicycle that he took to school only once before it mysteriously vanished.
It's this determination that pushes him through life. It led him at age 16 to fold himself into the trunk of a car with two others and sneak into the United States. [An admitted, criminal illegal alien] "I almost lost my life," Sotelo explains. "It makes you appreciate what you have."
Twenty years later, the Saddleback High School graduate has the most morning listeners in Southern California, according to Arbitron's spring ratings. His nationally syndicated show is "El Piolín por la Mañana" ("Tweety Bird in the Morning") on La Nueva 101.9. His drive is contagious.
Sotelo helped spur a public wave of activism [contributing to the illegal alien problem in Sothern California] in the spring that Americans haven't seen in the U.S. since the 1960s. He and other radio personalities urged half a million people [mostly illegal aliens] to take to the streets across the country, protesting a bill in Congress that would have made it a felony to be in this country illegally. [Protesting in a country where they live illegally]
His voice is often the first many hear while making breakfast, dressing the children for school or on their way to work. [dressing the illegal children to go get their free education paid for by American tax payers or to go work for cash to avoiding paying taxes because they are in the country illegally] He's heard daily by many of the nation's 40 million Spanish-speaking residents. [20 million of who are here illegally]
Sotelo, 35, dubbed Tweety Bird by friends in Santa Ana because of his small stature and full lips, starts at 4 a.m. in his studio in Glendale with "Despiértese! Despiértese!" (Wake Up! Wake Up!"). It's soon followed with: "Why did we come to this country [illegally]?" To succeed!" His seven-hour show is laced with Looney Tunes-type sounds infused with the oompah of traditional Mexican music. One moment he spits out jokes that are sometimes crass but often light-hearted and corny. Seconds later he helps a family telephone a son stationed in Iraq. Sotelo says he wants his listeners to start the day smiling or laughing. "Sometimes you wake up and you're sad because of family problems," Sotelo explains.
He and an extensive crew of personalities – many former listeners – crank-call local businesses. A visiting sexologist offers advice on love and sexual problems. While Sotelo is an entertainer and much of his show is pranks and help-line calls, he says his most important role is to provide information to his listeners – many Latino immigrants – helping them negotiate [their illegal] life in the United States.
Often, he counsels callers. He offers help with [illegal] immigration problems. He reunites families with international telephone calls. He visits ailing [illegal immigrant] children [getting free health care] in [U.S.] hospitals. Recently, a woman named Irma went to the studio to tell listeners that her sister and eight others were killed in a crash near Yuma, Ariz [while attempting to sneak into the United States illegally]. Sotelo phoned the Mexican consul, who told listeners on air that Mexican officials would ensure that Irma's family member who survived the crash would be returned home. [Where else?]
Sotelo wins over listeners by calling them "my heart" or "brother." To many he's a hero, an ally, someone who understands their struggles [Attempting to fly “under the radar” in a country where they do not belong]. He was once an illegal immigrant [criminal], after all.
His first stop was in Santa Ana, where he was met by family members, living with them in a garage on Adams Street in the Delhi neighborhood. Sotelo worked [illegally] various jobs before becoming a radio star. He washed cars and collected plastic bottles. After [attending] school [illegally] at Saddleback High, [paid for by the United States tax paying citizens] he rushed to catch a bus to a photo lab. There, he pretended he was on the radio, mimicking the news of the day, gradually developing his radio personality.
He scored his first radio job delivering the news for a Corona station in the early '90s. When he wasn't on air he washed dishes, acted as a movie extra, worked as a janitor. "It's important to know different types of jobs," he says. [What?] He'd later take radio jobs in Santa Ana, Oxnard and San Jose before landing a gig in Sacramento. There, immigration agents rapped on his door, delivering a deportation order. [Finally!] A San Francisco judge ordered him deported.
Handcuffed and ready to go, Sotelo prayed for his luck to change. That same day he was granted a work visa. [Imagine that!] Sotelo said he promised God he would help others. Now he helps [illegal] immigrants avoid the mistakes he made when he first arrived. [Like getting caught] Unscrupulous attorneys scammed him out of money a couple of times with promises of getting him residency. [The likelihood of this happening to him would have been almost nil if he had gone about seeking residency legally]
He learned that jaywalking isn't allowed here as it is in Mexico. [What?] He bought false identification to work but says he didn't understand the price if caught. [Yes, we have laws here in the United States] "It's a felony," Sotelo says, his eyes opening wide. "That's equivalent to killing somebody. I don't think I hurt anybody by working here." [No, it’s not the same as killing somebody. Haven’t you learned the difference yet?]
He urges listeners to learn the rules of their adopted country [the country where they have come to live illegally and un-welcomed] and abide by them.[Although most abide by few] "It's a great way to show your love for this country," he says. [It would be the least you could do] While he and a dozen other radio personalities called for people to show the economic strength of [illegal] immigrants on May 1 by taking to the streets, they urged [illegal immigrant] protesters to leave a good impression. [Don’t make too many demands for more free stuff]
Sotelo asked people to wear white T-shirts, wave U.S. flags and carry plastic bags to pick up trash along the way. [Instead, they wore brown tee shirts, carried Mexican flags and left trash everywhere] And many of the nearly 1 million in two big marches did just that. [In reality, very few] He wants to continue the momentum. On Saturday, Sotelo started his path to U.S. citizenship. [Only LAST SATURDAY folks] He's hoping the thousands of [illegal]immigrants who listen to him will follow him once more in a massive naturalization campaign launched in Los Angeles.
His first step is to detail how [to sneak into the United States Illegally] it's done. He'll earn his citizenship, [after living here illegally for 20 years] just as he built his burgundy bicycle in Ocotlán. One piece at a time. His goal? To be able to vote and urge other [illegal] immigrants to do the same.
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