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Saturday, April 01, 2023

“Celebrando nuestra música”: Gainesville’s first Spanish radio station prepares for debut

Tu Fiesta Radio will be available through a mobile app and website, 24/7 starting Nov. 1

Cady Casellas’ hit Latin segment “Chisme Con Cady” was discontinued from UF’s student-run radio on GHQ during the COVID-19 pandemic, and left a void in Gainesville’s radio scene. However, one Cuban native and long-standing Alachua County resident will introduce the first full-fledged Spanish station based in Gainesville, starting Monday.

Elio Piedra’s idea, alongside his partner Charlie Delatorre, comes at a time where Gainesville’s radio scene is limited to English-based content, despite having more than 73,000 Hispanic listeners in the audio and television market population that incorporates Alachua County. 

Piedra goes by many titles. He’s an entrepreneur, entertainer, musician, and now a radio junkie as the pioneer behind the creation of Fiesta Media, his very own production company. Tu Fiesta Radio’s soft opening will launch Monday through the radio’s own phone-based application and website on Nov. 1. 

Piedra is no stranger to the Gainesville Hispanic scene — his iconic drum and percussion set paired with his lively, booming voice can be found at Spanish restaurants and even at UF official events. He is not your average musician, as he boasts years of experience with the National Conservatory of Music in Cuba and with countless symphonies across decades of his life. 

He is a Cuban native from Pinar del Rio, where his musical talents unraveled at the early age of 9. The musician and DJ emigrated to the United States in 2011 at 20 years old to join his now-wife, Yarelis Serrano, in Gainesville, where she studied when Piedra first arrived. 

With the help of friends and community partners throughout the years, they’ve created a powerhouse of Hispanic representation through Piedra’s company that provides more diverse flavors to Alachua County’s radio scene and the entire entertainment industry. 

“There are so many American radio music stations of all genres ... but what we can do for our community that can positively impact not only the question of music, but also as another platform that really serves as a support, as a means of communication and entertainment, and brings good Latin music that is nowhere to find," Piedra said. 

The Spanish station will host specialty segments featuring guest stars and classic Spanish hits ranging from reggaeton, bachata and salsa. Gainesville Spanish speakers will get to enjoy Tu Fiesta Radio from the comfort of their homes or anywhere on the go through the mobile app. Audiences can request songs directly through the app and connect the station to automatically play through vehicle radios and smart devices like Google Home and Amazon Alexa.

Although formatted differently than broadcast radio stations, Piedra’s digital radio station will function like traditional stations with 24/7 music and hit segments throughout high-traffic hours. 

Unlike traditional broadcast stations with limited frequency ranges, listeners can tune into Tu Fiesta Radio beyond Alachua County limits and throughout the nation with any cellular connection or through the station’s website.

Piedra celebrates 10 years since he first emigrated to the US from Cuba to pursue his musical dreams and reunite with his childhood sweetheart. Although he’s made a mighty name for himself in Alachua County through his flamboyant performances and heavy involvement with the Greater Gainesville Chamber of Commerce, he doesn’t forget the struggles he underwent as an immigrant who didn’t know English and brought very little from his homeland. 

“When you have a dream, you must hold on to it with tooth and nail and not let anyone steal that dream from you,” Piedra said. "You have to be hungry to do good without wanting to harm the community."

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After the crises brought forth by COVID-19, Piedra said he felt a need to incentivize and motivate his community through music, resulting in Tu Fiesta Radio. 

Former GHQ radio host Cady Casellas, 23, could always be found at UF’s Weimer Hall on Fridays during Chisme con Cady’s 7-9 p.m. time slot. After airing the show in Spring 2019, the telecommunication alumnus dominated Gainesville’s radio scene with the only Latin radio show at the time until its cancellation in Spring 2020.

Chisme con Cady followed a traditional specialty program format with Top 40 Latin songs, guest stars, and “chisme” (gossip) surrounding Spanish artists. Although the Cuban-Jewish alumnus featured more modern taste with more Spanish trap, Casellas bridged the gap between older and younger Hispanics through a blend of classic and reggaeton Spanish hits. 

“From the beginning, I said I am creating this, but this is not ending with me. I wanted to train someone or appoint someone,” Casellas said. “But they wanted to keep the pop format which I can understand from their perspective… but there is such a need for a Latin station in Gainesville.”

Hispanic locals and UF students have inquired about the segment’s return, but her Friday evening slot remains unoccupied despite potential replacements introduced by Casellas.

As radio stars who share similar Cuban pride, both are passionate about using their platform to educate viewers on the current political Cuban crisis demonstrated through the hashtag #SOSCuba. 

“They’re creating a Latin station, and that made me so happy because I feel like I started this thing and then there was a gap in between, but there was such a need for it that it was brought back [by Tu Fiesta Radio],” Casellas said.

Chisme con Cady’s top 3 in Latin music still lives on at 4:45 p.m. and 6:45 p.m. through Casellas’ on-air, pop music radio slot from 4-8 on PlayFM.

Monday marks Tu Fiesta Radio’s soft opening, but you can celebrate Gainesville’s inaugural Spanish radio station in person on Nov. 5 at Tioga Town Center, where reggaeton hits will be met with raffles and giveaways all night long.

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Isabella Barnet

Isabella Barnet is a fourth-year telecommunication student at the University of Florida. She is a proud Miami native and Cuban-Peruvian working as the editor of El Caimán. You can find her working on personal film projects, practicing Hispanic dishes, and catching sunsets at Paynes Prairie.

Saira González

Saira González is a fourth-year at The University of Florida double majoring in Spanish and Anthropology. She is from Ruskin, Florida, but was born in her native Mexico. She spends her free time playing the violin and working as a translator for El Caimán. 

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