When he was young, Elio Piedra wanted to be a soccer player. His career in music and the entertainment world was an accident.
Piedra’s mother was the secretary for the Casa de la Cultura in Cuba, a local organization that taught and promoted the arts. One day, she made Piedra take a musical aptitude test.
Piedra was 7 years old, and his results opened the door to a world of unknown possibilities.
“It was more like music chose me,” Piedra said.
That’s how his path in the music world started — a path that led him to graduate from the National Conservatory of Music in Cuba, form a band called Elio’s Quartet, compose and play music across the U.S. and, eventually, start the first Spanish radio station in Gainesville: Tu Fiesta Radio.
Piedra’s plan was never to move to the U.S., but he ended up doing it for his wife. The couple met as classmates in their high school in Cuba, where his wife played the clarinet.
Later on, she moved to Gainesville to study at UF, and their relationship came to a halt. But in 2010, they reunited in Cuba, their flame reignited and Piedra decided to leave everything and move to the U.S. with her.
“It really was for love,” he said.
During his first years in the country, Piedra focused on constructing a personal brand. He traveled to over 25 states and worked with different production companies, such as Arts Management Associate. He was also a voting member of the Latin Grammys from 2015 to 2018 and met musicians and other industry professionals, including producer Rudy Pérez, the co-founder of the Latin Grammys, Oscar D’León, Gilberto Santa Rosa, Rubén Blades, among others.
Also during these early years, Piedra started the band Elio’s Quarter, with which he played in festivals and won the Havana Jazz Festival in Havana, Cuba, in 2009. After the COVID-19 pandemic, Piedra said, the band separated, but the breakup created new opportunities for his career.
The radio station Tu Fiesta Radio debuted in 2021 as a way to create a legacy, Piedra said.
“I always think how we can make something that tomorrow — when we are no longer here — it can stay as a legacy for the community,” he said.
His experience in music helped him create a prestigious radio station, Piedra said, one that could be the “home of the Latinos” for those who needed to feel part of a community.
The station can be tuned into at 97.3 FM HD2 and is available through its Android or Apple mobile applications. Piedra and his team also share content on their social media, including Facebook, Instagram and YouTube.
Through Facebook groups and promotions on the shows, Tu Fiesta promotes and works with various nonprofit organizations in the city, like the Rural Women’s Health Project and Children Beyond Our Borders, Inc.
Piedra is a member of the Gainesville Chamber of Commerce and said the collective helped him connect with local organizations and sponsors for the radio, such as Campus USA Credit Union, which has helped immigrants get started with their finances in the country. These connections are what make it possible to help the Latin community, he said.
María Fernanda Camacho, 31, the host for the “Show de La Mañana” on Tu Fiesta, said she’s filled with enthusiasm for the impact the radio has on the Hispanic community.
“The Hispanic community needed to be listened to and also to listen,” Camacho said.
Tu Fiesta helps unite the community through music, Camacho said, and it also provides information for existing resources; they guide people through how to get a driver’s license, find health care services and move forward with immigration processes.
Apart from its commitment to inform and help the community, the main purpose of the radio is to connect Latinos in Gainesville through special events.
The slogan for the radio and for Tu Fiesta Media was inspired by his mentor, Freddie Wehbe, Piedra said: “Bringing the fiesta to you.” Piedra wanted a bilingual slogan to show the connection of Latin people in this country, he said.
Piedra believes in bringing fun and good vibes wherever he goes in order to separate the definition of a musician from an entertainer. An entertainer, he said, will always go one step further to create good times.
“The people are not going to remember what you played, but they will remember how you made them feel,” Piedra said.
José Ariet, 57, said being an entertainer is what makes Piedra someone charismatic who pours his energy and knowledge into every project.
Ariet, who everyone knows as “Tuti,” is Tu Fiesta’s general manager. He’s been friends with Piedra for many years, and although his main job is as an insurance agent, he started getting involved with radio late last year.
The impact the radio had, Ariet said, is of being a communication channel to share information and break language barriers that exist in the community. Piedra puts all his effort toward making these roles possible, he added.
“The ability to have this platform has been huge — not only for us but for the Latin community in Gainesville,” Ariet said. “[Elio] is not only playing a part, he really does want to make an impact.”
Piedra thinks another important part of his mission is to show the Latino community that they have a space to create and grow, he said. His biggest advice for people who just immigrated is to take advantage of every opportunity they have.
“Do what is difficult,” Piedra said. “Try to surpass yourselves … try to be the best version of yourself, and I believe that best version of yourself will do the best for our community.”
Contact Valentina at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @valesrc.
Valentina Sandoval is a second-year journalism major and a staff writer for El Caimán. Whenever she's not writing, she's expanding her Animal Crossing island, making Spotify playlists or convincing someone to follow her dog on Instagram.