La Tricolor connects the Roaring Fork Valley’s Latinos |

La Tricolor connects the Roaring Fork Valley’s Latinos

Samuel Bernal in his Tricolor recording studio which broadcasts from Aspen to Glenwood and parts of Rifle.
Chelsea Self, Post Independent

Spanish-language radio is an important connector in the Roaring Fork Valley, especially for a community filled with anxiety over the political climate.

Samuel Bernal, who started running the Basalt-based La Tricolor radio station in 2008, originally moved to Denver from Mexico City to work for the Spanish-language media company Entravision, which owns radio, TV and digital media outlets across the country.

Tricolor broadcasts from Aspen to Glenwood Springs and reaches to some areas around Rifle.

Bernal says Tricolor has two important roles: to entertain and to inform listeners on what’s happening in the Roaring Fork Valley. Most of Tricolor’s programming is network programming of music and comedy produced in Los Angeles. It broadcasts morning and afternoon shows that are very popular with the Hispanic market in the U.S., he said.

But locally, each station has its own segments, which Tricolor uses for local information on regional goings-on.

Bernal said this is a useful tool for the audience, using the music and comedy programs to draw them in, then offering them information about the important local events and cultural programming covering history, art and education.

Bernal says the Latino market is unique because the nature of the community’s work often allows people little time to read but plenty of time to listen to radio.

Many of them work in Aspen and have long commutes from Silt and Rifle, if not farther.

And many of Tricolor’s listeners work in construction or in restaurant kitchens, jobs that allow for a lot of listening time, said Bernal.

“It’s funny, no matter what type of restaurant you’re in, a Thai restaurant or an Italian restaurant, you’re listening to a Mexican in the kitchen or a Latino from El Salvador,” he said.

“It’s also a very oral culture,” said Bernal. “In our countries of origin, families share a lot by talking and talking and talking.”

Though it’s a small operation, Tricolor is a top-ranked station, said Bernal. And though that’s partly due to fewer Spanish-language options than in the English-language market, he attributes that to the Latino community’s deeper engagement with the radio.

“Many are also bilingual. But a lot of studies show that if you’re first generation, you feel more comfortable getting information through your original language. If it’s important, you don’t want to miss any detail.”

The station’s network programming allows the two-person operation to focus on connecting Latinos to solid local information, said Bernal.

A good example of that came during Thursday’s school closures across the Roaring Fork Valley. Though the closures were over a suspected threat of violence to an unspecified school, the rumor mill was at work in the Spanish-speaking community.

Somewhere through the language barrier, the news became a rumor that immigration enforcement was at the schools, sending a wave of fear through some immigrant parents.

Killing that rumor and getting out accurate information was very valuable, said Bernal.

“I think we live in a very immigrant-friendly state and valley, because most of the time you feel there is care for our community, either by organizations or the media,” he said. “I’m grateful for that.”

But the Latino community is nervous about what will happen under President Donald Trump’s administration. Having already seen an executive order restricting immigration from seven Muslim-majority counties, Latinos are wondering how much of the president’s campaign rhetoric will come true.

“It’s been a time more of expectation. But we’re still waiting to see what is really going to happen in the country, in the state and in this valley,” Bernal said.

Tricolor’s role is to keep people informed about what’s really going on, “and we try to be very positive about the good things too. I think there has been a lot of good response from different fronts that are important for people to know about.”

Immediately following the November election, Tricolor hosted an open house for immigrants in Glenwood Springs, where local law enforcement, immigration attorneys and advocates gathered to try to assuage some anxiety over the presidential transition and spread awareness of available resources.

Every time another organization comes out with a statement in support of immigrants, they need to know about that because it’s useful for them, said Bernal.

“Right now it’s important to be positive, not by changing the message, but by letting people know about all resources that are there for them and all the care there is for them.”

Bernal said the political climate is also paradoxical. Though it might be distressing for many immigrant families, “it’s also something good for us because we are talking more about important things that we weren’t talking about in the past. Things are changing, and people are debating and talking more about politics.”

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