News & Politics

Radio Jornalera Is Giving Voice to Immigrant Experiences

A new DC radio station is telling the stories of Spanish-speaking laborers.

Photograph of Studio courtesy of Radio Jornalera

On a recent afternoon at a DC radio studio, the host of a current-events program leaned into a mike and offered thoughts on the latest bill to hit the House floor. It’s a common-enough occurrence around Washington, where all manner of pundits regularly share opinions and insights. But this station is different from typical talk radio. Located inside St. Augustine’s church on 14th Street, Northwest, the studio is home to Radio Jornalera, a resource for Spanish-speaking day laborers, with a focus on those who live here thanks to Temporary Protected Status (TPS), a designation given to people from countries impacted by war or natural disasters.

Launched in March by the National Day Laborer Organizing Network and the National TPS Alliance, Radio Jornalera is streamed through Facebook Live, with an initial offering of three programs: one focused on local musicians, another on TPS issues, and the third offering professional resources for the kinds of local laborers who tune in, including cooks, cleaners, mechanics, landscapers, and construction workers.

DC’s Radio Jornalera station is part of a larger project that began in Pasadena in 2018, intended as a counter to Donald Trump’s immigration policies. The shows aren’t just about immigrants—they’re also created by them. For example, one is hosted by Xiomara Martinez, who in 2000, while a medical student in El Salvador, came to Maryland to visit her mother. Martinez found herself stranded after a devastating earthquake struck her country, and TPS allowed her to start a cleaning business and send her kids to US schools. But Trump discontinued TPS for Salvadorans in 2018, so the life that Martinez has built in the US is in limbo.

Martinez and Radio Jornalera’s other hosts didn’t have any radio experience before going on the air in March. But they’re figuring it out. “With our backs being pushed against the wall, it forced us to learn communications, legislation, and organizing,” says William Martinez, who runs the station and, it turns out, is Xiomara’s son. “Telling the story is not easy. To own that is very powerful and healing.”

Daniella Byck
Assistant Editor

Daniella Byck joined Washingtonian in August 2018. She is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Madison where she studied journalism and digital culture.