Monica De La Torre
Feminista Frequencies: Community Building through Radio in the Yakima Valley
University of Washington Press, 2022
Reviewed by Ana A. Rico
In her book Feminista Frequencies: Community Building through Radio in the Yakima Valley, Monica De La Torre presents the history of Radio Cadena, one of the first full-time community radio programs in Spanish. She highlights its role in the Mexican American community in the Yakima Valley in Washington to “educate, entertain, and build community over the airwaves.” Throughout the book, De La Torre centers Chicanas and their contributions to Radio Cadena, and community-based programming overall, through Chicana radio praxis and feminista frequencies. She challenges the erasure of Chicana/os in radio broadcasting history, and highlights how these practices are alive and well in today’s digital media. This case study draws on oral histories and visual artifacts and shows the transformative nature of Radio Cadena in the Yakima Valley and in Chicana/o community radio at large.
This book is divided into three main chapters, the first of which focuses on the forces that propelled the creation of Chicana/o community radio and Radio Cadena’s origins of “migration, social movement activism, and community radio production.” To underscore how groundbreaking Radio Cadena was, De La Torre provides historical background before the creation of the radio program. She details the migration of Mexican Americans to the Pacific Northwest to follow farm labor. The eventual settlement of this group in the Yakima Valley created a need for community building and activism that Radio Cadena filled. Created by Chicana/os, Radio Cadena became “la voz del campesino” and disseminated necessary information to the Mexican American community. This was especially important since the Chicano Movement was occurring at the same time. She also details the founders’ backgrounds, highlighting their knowledge and motivations to start Radio Cadena. The effects of radio broadcasting policy are also discussed in relation to Chicana/o radio programming, as well as the fight for representation of Mexican Americans in the radio space. This extensive background situates the need for Chicana/o radio programming, specifically in the Yakima Valley, which was becoming a new location for a Mexican American community. This context gives the readers a comprehensive understanding of the foundation of Radio Cadena, and the needs that they were fulfilling for Chicana/os. This solid foundation of the history of this community radio programming helps in discussing it through Chicana radio praxis in the following section.
The key point of this book comes in the second chapter aptly titled “Brotando del Silencio (Emerging from Silence).” De La Torre explores how Chicana radio praxis and feminista frequencies were present in Radio Cadena, and how they highlighted and uplifted Chicanas and their voices. ‘Chicana radio praxis’ is a term that the author coined to describe the woman-centered practices that Radio Cadena employed in their production. Feminista Frequencies results from these practices. She successfully gives a voice to Chicanas and their transformative work and influence within Radio Cadena. Through description of programming, radio practices, and their positive effects on the community and the women themselves, De La Torre artfully shows the importance of Chicanas in this space and their community. By uncovering and empowering these silenced voices, the reader can see the transformational nature of Radio Cadena to the community and Chicanas. De La Torre echoes the call to action to create language and spaces for Chicanas in male-dominated narratives presented in Chabram’s essay I throw punches for my race, but I don’t want to be a man. She indicates how Chicanas involved in Radio Cadena built this station to be a feminist space. This chapter effectively places Chicanas in the second wave of feminism through their own oral histories and experiences. By doing so, De La Torre unsilences Chicanas, their histories, and their contributions to their community.
The last chapter focuses on the aesthetics of Radio Cadena founded in rasquachismo, and how these were present in the author’s experience in community radio programming. De La Torre applies rasquachismo to community radio, meaning that community radio “centers our lived experiences.” It builds upon the earlier chapter’s discussions of community radio programming and the lived experiences that influenced Radio Cadena’s programming. This is paired with examples from both Radio Cadena and her experience at Soul Rebel Radio, thus illustrating De La Torre’s argument and demonstrating how there is continuity in community radio practices. This offers readers valuable insight into community radio programs and allows them to continue to seek these practices in modern day programming.
De La Torre weaves together the history of Radio Cadena from oral histories of Rosa Ramón and Ricardo Romano García, two of the founders of Radio Cadena, as well as other Radio Cadena employees. This gives the audience a firsthand account of the radio program, the work they were doing, and the impact it had on the community. To supplement these oral histories, photos taken by Ramón are also included to depict the everyday operations of volunteers and employees at the radio station, providing the audience a visual story as well. This multimodal approach creates a well-rounded case study and creates a kind of archive within the book. Including these two sources gives an intimate account of Radio Cadena and almost enables the reader to feel as though they are part of this community radio program.
Feminista Frequencies presents interesting arguments and an informative case study of Radio Cadena and the role of Chicanas in community radio programming. The arguments and definitions were presented several times throughout the text, which at times disrupted the work’s flow when reading the entire book. However, if a reader is interested in only a certain chapter, they would be able to understand the arguments without reading the book from cover to cover. This is a compelling history and worthy read for anyone interested in Mexican American studies and Chicana feminism. Similarly, those interested in oral history archives, community building effort, and communication and media studies would find the practices highlighted in this book insightful. Overall, Feminista Frequencies highlights a silenced history of Chicana/os in radio broadcasting and presents a recovered historiography through a Chicana feminist lens.