Live from Las Palmas: New online radio show in Beechview helping build Latino community

By February 11, 2019 No Comments

“Music is something that fills my soul.”

DJ Pirata, aka Vincente Sandoval, live from Las Palmas (Current Photo: Grace Muller]

By Grace Muller
Pittsburgh Current Contributing Writer

The elevated perch of DJ Pirata’s broadcast booth overlooks stacked cases of bottled water, restaurant-sized cans of choclo, a type of corn, and a freezer case full of juices. For the past 10 months he has been broadcasting a high-energy mix of cumbia, salsa and bachata from a small booth in Beechview’s Las Palmas IGA grocery store.

DJ Pirata, also known by his given name of Vicente Sandoval, has been Korona Hispana’s sole DJ since he started his internet radio show in May 2018.

“I’ve always said, how cool would it be to play music and talk to people?” Sandoval says. “Nobody knew how to help me start.”

Luis Berumen, one of the five brothers that own the local Las Palmas grocery stores, said that having the radio station in the store was his brothers’ idea.

“There wasn’t anything to advertise Hispanic businesses with our community and the idea came to us,” Berumen says. “The space was empty. There was only merchandise being stored, like Sabritas [a brand of chips] and candy.”

Sandoval comes to the IGA after his shift at work a few days a week to start the show at exactly 9 p.m.. His station has two computers, three screens and a mounted cell phone for him to monitor messages coming in. He hits record on TuneIn Radio and Facebook Live. DJ Pirata plays requests from his collection until viewers drop off for the evening, usually around 11 pm. The music also broadcasts throughout the store.

Vicente said he has a library of about 45,000 songs, including bachata, cumbia, rock and roll, and merengue. Local bands also send him their music.

“I work from 11 a.m. until 8 p.m. I never get a break. I am always working,” Sandoval says. “[Being a radio DJ] after work is a lot less depressing than watching TV. Why do I do this? A lot of time, we’re telling each other stories. If I hear a song, I think of a story.”

“Music is something that fills my soul.”

Sandoval says he was inspired by an internet radio station from Los Angeles called Sonideros.TV. Sonidero is a style of DJ from comes from Mexico City, where Sandoval is from. Sonideros mixes cumbia music with commentary and sound effects.

Sandoval views his radio station as something participative. During his show, he says that he talks to people writing in on Facebook Live from the United States, Mexico and Uruguay.

On Tuesday night, a man named Juan wrote on Facebook Live that it was his birthday. Vicente played his own mix of “Las Manitas,” a traditional Mexican birthday song. People commented back to Juan over and over “happy birthday” and sent him heart emojis.

“Here we are helping people and encouraging them,” Sandoval says. “Many listeners aren’t from here in Pittsburgh. They’re from other states. This is a community where we are meeting each other, little by little. [Latinos] don’t have anything for free, not radio and not TV.”

Store owner Luis Beruman agrees that the radio station was good for the community.

“Some clients already listen to the show every day. They tell us that it is really good that we’re doing it. That we should move forward with it so that it becomes even more popular,” Beruman says. “This station can let Hispanics know about all that happens, good and bad. Little by little we are growing as a community. We can have communication between Hispanics.”

Without looking up at the dusty window near the store entrance, shoppers have no way of knowing it isn’t canned music being piped in like any other grocery store.

Customers Jeanmarie Zimmerman and Brian Sheldon said that they didn’t know that the DJ playing music on the system overhead was broadcasting from inside the store.

Zimmerman recently moved from Los Angeles to Beechview. “I’ve told so many people about this market. The music is nostalgic for me,” he says. “This is the second time that we’ve been here tonight.”

Sheldon, also an LA transplant, agreed, “This music reminds me of LA, especially the sound effects.”

You can listen to Korona Hispana on the internet radio site or in the evenings at 9pm on Korona Hispana’s Facebook Live broadcast.

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