Rogelio Contreras | Green Bay, WI
Just the language difference was more difficult than anything. All I knew about Green Bay was that summers were beautiful, but winters were long. I was born and raised in Guadalajara. Although I came to the U.S. about 15 years ago, my mom’s side of the family has been in Green Bay for 30 years.
I wear a lot of hats. First, I’m a father with a two-year-old who keeps me busy. Then, I’m the community project coordinator for Wello, a local nonprofit here in Green Bay. Our mission is to create the best health and well-being for the people of Green Bay, and my job is connecting with the community. At Wello, I saw a gap in resources that were available, and even with the resources that were out there, I could see that no one was letting the community know about them. There are often things going on in the community that people don’t know about that are literally happening outside your door.
I’m also the general manager, secretary, salesman, and everything else for XpresaT Radio, a local online radio station. I started Xpresa T Radio with a friend to further connect the Hispanic community. My partner in the project is the one who came up with the idea, but I had the radio experience and came on to make it a more serious project. It started really small, just once a week, literally in a closet during the pandemic. Now we have our own studio, live music 24/7, and several different shows.
There was not enough connection within the Hispanic community because of a lack of communication with one another. Despite the language barrier, we wanted people to feel that even though they’re away from home, they can have a home here too. That brought us to music. Music is a big part of myself. I wish I was a musician, but since I know how to program, I work the technology side of things. It started out as a really small project with the intention of the radio station helping to make people feel comfortable by playing Spanish music and communicating through a familiar language. The community touch is what has kept it going and what will keep us going.
The whole point of the radio station is to make people comfortable where they are. Maybe we can’t make it feel exactly like home, but hopefully, we can make them feel that where they live is a good place to be. We don’t want anyone to feel uncomfortable because they don’t speak the language. Being comfortable where you live and being connected is also better for your mental health.
On Xpresa T Radio—literally ‘express radio’—there is a whole day dedicated to expressing opinions. We have touched on some really controversial topics (not just for the Hispanic community, but for everyone.) There was one day recently, we got together to talk about everything going on in the U.S. right now. It’s crazy to me that we can be so divided within the community and still sit down and have a hard conversation in front of so many people. I hope we were able to help out whoever was listening. We got a lot of feedback from the community on that one particular show saying, ‘Hey, we actually were happy you touched on that because we aren’t talking about that.’
This is common in every community – there is always a topic a community won’t touch because it might make someone uncomfortable. Anything to do with immigration or mental health are touchy subjects in the Hispanic community, and people have a lot of different opinions. We want to give people a way to express themselves however they feel is best.
So I guess Xpresa T Radio is here to make people comfortable, but at the same time uncomfortable. You have to make people uncomfortable in a way to make those conversations happen. That gives us the chance to actually learn. We bring people in who have firsthand experience in the topics we are talking about. We have also made some great connections from bringing in experts and talking about different topics that interest the Hispanic community.
I’m 27 years old and in a great spot in life. One of the things I say to young Latinos finding their way is try to keep your culture as much as you can. Keep your traditions. Things have evolved and will continue to evolve, and you can take those things with you, too. I have so many dreams, so many things I want to do. It’s been a journey, but I don’t want to stop moving forward.