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Radio San Miguel, A Radio Jewel

By Jesús Aguado

According to the United Nations, social media can fragment a potential audience, dividing the population into media bubbles of likeminded people. However, radio remains uniquely positioned to bring communities together and foster positive dialogue for change, regardless of the twenty-first century’s vast technological changes.

Radio is still a dynamic, reactive and engaging medium. “If you have a radio, you will always have a good ally by your side, and will never be alone” says the UN’s webpage in honor of International Radio Day, which is celebrated annually on February 13. This year’s topic is “Dialogue, Tolerance and Peace.”

Perhaps few places in México prove that truth more than San Miguel de Allende, where radio is alive and well and of daily significance to Sanmiguelenses.

San Miguel’s jewel

In our city, Radio San Miguel (call letters: XESQ) has been on the air for the last 58 years. It is a rather unique radio station in México with live programs from 6am–10pm daily, with a wide diversity of radio announcers and contributors. In today’s world of media groups, syndicated radio shows, and prerecorded “live” material on radio throughout the world, XESQ stands out.

The station’s music genres vary from rock to norteño to banda, from jazz to duranguense (from the state of Durango) to classical music.  From one song to another, the styles change freely. Live programs range from news topics to sports, to shows about alternative medicine and the economy.

At XESQ, DJs and listeners are free to express any opinion. In the DJ booth, there is no room for censorship. The station is located on Sollano 4, and there are literally no barriers to getting to the hosts and making use of the microphone.

The radio personalities in the booths bring a wide variety of items to air: community issues, invitations to religious or social events, on-air greetings from listeners to other listeners. They have even been known to announce lost keys, wallets, credit cards—even lost burros.

It is almost impossible not to listen to the show Sucedos Sucedidos o Que Van a Suceder, the news program hosted by Javier Zavala—weekday mornings from 7:30 to 10:30am— without feeling a touch of irony, humor, and respect. The news is not necessarily of high impact, but always of interest to the show’s listeners, who many times call or show up at the radio station with an offered solution.

The first radio station in México opened its doors in 1930, Radio XEW. In San Miguel de Allende, the first radio station arrived three decades later, in 1961. Currently, the city has two stations, the other being XHMIG Imagen 105.9 FM.

Javier Zavala Ortiz, Radio San Miguel’s director, remembers that federal authorities granted general Ramón Rodríguez Familiar (former governor of Querétaro) a permit to operate a radio station in “San Miguel, Querétaro.” The authorities thought San Miguel was in Querétaro and not in Guanajuato, from there comes the Q from XESQ. Despite the misunderstanding, on August 26, 1961, Sanmiguelenses turned their radio dials to 1280 AM and first heard radio broadcasts from San Miguel, transmitting from a building on Correo 22.

However, the station faced financial problems: at the time, San Miguel was a small city of 20,000, and everyone in town was already aware of the services and products that merchants had for sale, and so the station suffered difficulties generating ad revenue; no one wanted to advertise.

Don Manuel Zavala Zavala had always taken an interest in radio, and so he and some partners offered Familiar a deal to rent the unprofitable radio station. In the end, Zavala Zavala made a deal with Familiar to buy the station instead, and its equipment moved to Correo 46.

However, there was still a problem among the partners regarding its shares. After a legal battle, the Zavala family—Don Manuel and his son Javier—ended up with the station. The equipment was moved again, to its current location on Sollano 4, known as “The Home of Sanmiguelenses.”

20 More Years

A radio station should be an item in local governments’ toolbox, Javier Zavala says. Since almost every Sanmiguelense listens to the station, the relationship between the station and the government need to be good, however there have been all kinds of relationships throughout the station’s history. Zavala remembers when the 2012–2015 local government wanted to “destroy” them, and even censored them, blocking them from obtaining any press information the administration provided to other media outlets. “The station is as addictive as Coca-Cola” he joked.

Javier Zavala has hosted the 7:30am news slot since 2005, previously occupied by his father, Manuel Zavala Zavala, who hosted the news program for 45 years.

Although San Miguel has grown, Javier Zavala acknowledges that there is still not much news on his program of high national impact. But from the local point of view, the news he brings to air impacts many, such as someone without public water for two weeks, or someone whose trash is not being collected. The most shocking news he ever read on air came when he had to broadcast his own father’s obituary.

“He died on November 2 at 11pm. In the morning, the radio announcer did not show up, and I had to let Sanmiguelenses know what was going on. I never thought I would read that; it was a complicated moment, but I did it.”

Don Zavala’s death is just one of the many moments in San Miguel’s history for which the station has provided an audio record since its beginning. Although the station’s archives are not well organized, one can find important events and news moments there, both big and small—who was born, married, divorced through the last and when, the local news, and the voices of this historic city.

And to the happiness of many, the beloved station will keep on bringing the news to Sanmiguelenses for the foreseeable future: the federal government just renewed Radio San Miguel’s operating permit for another 20 years. You can listen to Radio San Miguel at 103.3 FM and 1280 AM.


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