At Valley Meats in Carbondale, four men sit on their lunch break in complete silence, starting at their phones. The valley’s only local, Spanish-language radio station plays in the background: La Tricolor, 107.1.
It plays music, reports the news and serves as a major resource for the Latino community in the area.
“Sometimes they tell us how I-70 is, heading towards Denver,” said Abelardo Quintero. He likes the music the station plays from Northern Mexico, but also that they switch it up and play dancier genres, like Bachata.
La Tricolor has a station in Basalt, tucked away by the river. In the studio upstairs, Samuel Bernal sits, in front of two, large computer screens, preparing tomorrow’s newscast. He’s the station manager. There’s a framed poster of The Beatles on the wall; a Woodstock poster is leaned against a chair outside, which he’s not sure where to put yet.
“Woodstock is like an icon,” Bernal said. He’s lived in the U.S. for the better part of a decade, but is originally from Mexico City, where he studied at the oldest journalism school in Latin America. Before moving to the U.S., he reported for a technology magazine in Mexico.
Bernal and his colleague, Crystal Mariscal, are La Tricolor’s boots on the ground in the Roaring Fork Valley. A lot of people depend on them. In a study several years ago, La Triocolor’s parent company – Entravision – found that radio reaches 93 percent of Latino consumers in Colorado’s Central Rockies.
Accident on the highway? School district calls a snow day? Bernal and Mariscal report it. They also do much, much more.
“We get messages from people like, ‘I don’t have a house, right now, I lost the place I was living, and I don’t have anywhere to go, and I have a kid, can you help me?’” Bernal said. They can help, as they’re connected to organizations around the valley.
The station is a resource for listeners in this way. Listeners are a resource for the station. They constantly send pictures of snowy, traffic-ridden highways, or car accidents other drivers should be aware of. Bernal posts them on the station’s Facebook page. He also posts his own videos. In one, which was viewed over 800 times, he tells his viewers how they should react if they’re ever arrested.
Another video on the station’s Facebook page has 1,100 views -- it’s a recording of the immigration forum Bernal organized at Glenwood Middle School in December.
He estimates more than 200 people were there. Police officers attended. They’d asked to be included in the conversation. Immigration attorneys answered questions and extended their services.
In Bernal’s opinion, La Tricolor is a bridge for the Latino community. His work is to address what the community needs, and discuss what it’s thinking about. That said, he wants to bring them into unfamiliar places, too.
Take, for example, the station’s collaboration with the Aspen Art Museum. Together, they put on four events a year, called Arte En Español. For an afternoon, there are guided tours in Spanish at the museum. There’s food and music and places to make art.
Bernal has seen hundreds of people show up for this event. He thinks this kind of engagement is something unique to the valley.
“I didn’t even used to see that in Mexico City, which was so big,” he said.
It also might have something to do with radio, he thinks. In his office, he’s drawn a box above his desk. There’s a longer story to explain why, which involves his favorite book, “The Little Prince.” In a nutshell, though, he thinks it “...is basically a box for imagination.” To continually serve as bridge for his community, it’s his imagination he uses each day.