Barrio's weak but powerful
Arizona Daily Star
May 6, 2006
Tucson, Arizona | Published:
Jack Hannon, 79, 'teaches' English to his
By Sarah N. Lynch
Valley Tribune via the associated press
MESA — Most of the time, only
static is transmitted through the speakers of radios tuned to 1710 AM in
west Mesa's Nuestro Neighborhood.
But every evening at 5 p.m., the hissing void
comes to life with cheerful Latino music and the lively voice of 79-year-old
Mesa resident Jack Hannon. Since October, Hannon has spent an hour each
night trying to reach out to his neighbors through his radio station, "Radio
The station is operated, literally, out of a
small shed in the back yard of Hannon's home. He uses a shoebox-sized
transmitter perched in a tree to broadcast the signal about a half-mile in
The goal of his program is to give Hispanic
immigrants a way to enjoy the music of their culture while at the same time
learning practical English words.
The radio, he says, is a non-intrusive way to
accomplish those goals. Radio Barrio is a low-powered, unlicensed station
that runs on 1 milliwatt of power. Hannon hopes to use a higher-powered FM
frequency someday, but for now he's content serving his barrio.
During the broadcasts, Hannon's neighbors can
switch on the radio and hear something like this:
"It's time to study," Hannon will say in
Spanish into a small microphone. Then he tells his listeners he will repeat
"Repetition is the mother of learning," he
says in Spanish.
He then reads several phrases out of a book
called "English on the Job."
When he's not teaching English or making
public service announcements, he's playing music.
He'll play everything from Spanish rock to
mariachi music, although he often tries to play Spanish music from
"It is indirectly saying 'it's OK to continue
your culture,' " Hannon said. "Learn English, but don't get rid of your
Some neighbors say they have benefited from
Maria Rodriguez, 52, who lives several doors
down, has learned words that help her communicate while working in nursing
homes and clinics, she said.
Rodriguez has learned to ask patients how they
are feeling, and she knows how to ask about room numbers. She thinks
Hannon's work is important to the community.
"He's a teacher," she said in Spanish. "He is
a very wise person. In the three years I've been here, he's always been
Hannon, an Anglo, is an adjunct sociology
instructor at Mesa Community College. He is fluent in Spanish and has a
passion for Mexican culture.
He launched the station through a nonprofit
organization he founded in 2002 called La Plaza de las Tres Culturas (The
Plaza of the Three Cultures).
The organization's mission is to promote adult
cultural education. It often works with the college to promote language
"He's quite a motivator," said Raquel Leyva, a
member of La Plaza and a retired chairwoman of the college's reading
department. "He loves the Hispanic people and culture."
The group works not only to help teach
immigrants English and "translate United States culture," but also to teach
the Spanish language and culture to Anglos, she said.
The radio provides a safe way for people to
learn English in the privacy of their homes. Of course, it's still too early
to know the station's full impact.