Latina radio host gives the mic to empowered women

María de los Ángeles Mendoza sat in Santa Rosa’s 89.1 radio studio on Saturday afternoon, minutes from going live.

She carefully adjusted the soundboard knobs while tapping her foot to the beat of her catchy intro song, Selena’s “La Carcacha.” Mendoza smiled warmly as she told her guest sitting across from her “you’ll do just fine.”

Then it was show time.

“Y estás escuchando su programa Voces de Mujeres,” Mendoza said into the microphone as sound levels on a screen behind her rose and fell.

Mendoza, 42, is one of three who take turns hosting “Voces de Mujeres”. The show, which is one of the longest-running female-run radio shows since its debut in the late ’70s, airs Saturdays from 1-2 p.m. on KBBF, Santa Rosa’s bilingual radio station. . Interviews are in Spanish, English and Spanglish.

As host, Mendoza shines a light on the compelling yet complex stories of Latinas from all walks of life: a single mother in the community, a first-generation college-goer, a successful business owner, and a leader. community that fights for the rights of women agricultural workers. , just to name a few.

Through Mendoza’s eyes, no story is ordinary and every woman has one to tell.

“Our stories are important and worthwhile,” Mendoza said with fierceness in his eyes. “Our lives aren’t just transient — what we do matters, whether you’re a homemaker, a businesswoman, or a recent graduate. Even if the person doesn’t think what they’ve done matters, because they’re not named in an article or on TV, their story matters.

Growing up in the San Rafael Canal neighborhood, she remembers helping her parents grow fruit in their community garden – placing seeds in the ground while listening to their stories of growing vegetables in fields near at home in Mexico.

Mendoza’s mother, Ana Maria, is the eldest of nine children who immigrated to the United States alone at age 23 in 1978. She landed in Marin County, then had the difficult task of navigating a new country and a new language on her own.

“His immigration story was something I always wanted to hear even though I’ve heard it a million times,” Mendoza said.

At age 13, Mendoza watched her mother use her voice for a good cause by participating in immigration reform rallies and marches in Marin County.

His mother finally became a citizen in 1996. Then Mendoza helped his mother’s six siblings in Mexico to come to the United States.

“Through this I realized how important it is to use your voice,” Mendoza said. “My mother was a voice for her siblings. I knew I wanted to learn how to use mine.

These experiences led her to major in sociology and Chicano/Latino studies at Sonoma State University, join a leadership program at school, and participate in a storytelling workshop. These programs and connections have helped Mendoza become more confident in sharing her voice with others.

“I spoke up during my classes and started sharing my story and my parents’ immigration experience,” she said. “That’s when things started to change. I was no longer afraid to speak. I was not afraid to share my story.

In 2016, Mendoza met Maria C. Mendoza, one of the hosts of “Voces de Mujeres”, while she was volunteering for a local nonprofit. After meeting the other host, Amalia Contardi, the two invited Mendoza to share her story with the on-air audience. The following year, they saw each other again after Contardi noticed that Mendoza worked weekly for a host at the station. After learning about Mendoza’s hopes of bringing women from other countries onto the show, Contardi invited her to become a show programmer in 2018.

“It was obvious she had a love for radio,” Contardi said. “She had feminist ideas and dreams and was so open-minded. Her interviews are wonderful, she adds her personal touch and roles with the punches when she makes mistakes. She brings so much joy to this show.

Then, in 2019, Mendoza signed to be the third host of “Voces de Mujeres”.

“I didn’t know I was going to enjoy hosting this show like I do — it’s part of who I am now,” she said.

During the hour-long show, she breaks the episode into segments with three songs – all handpicked by her guest and each has an inspiring connection to her life. Mendoza will then take the picks, plus a few additional songs, and carefully place them into sections based on the tone of the conversation.

One thing that sets Mendoza apart from its fellow hosts is that it also showcases women from surrounding counties.

“I wanted to chart that path for women from different areas who could sit down in Sonoma County via the airwaves or the phone and share and interact with other women’s stories,” she said.

When Mendoza hosts, it’s not just about giving Latinas a platform, but imparting wisdom to other women who tune into the show.

In the same way that her mother’s story inspires her, Mendoza is touched by the stories the women share with her on the show. A guest, Samantha, 18, who lived in the childhood neighborhood of Mendoza spoke of transitioning from the juvenile justice system to a foster home and then finally living on her own.

She interviewed her younger sister, Mayra, who shared her experience as a nursing student.

“She’s always had a passion for community and for empowering women, especially women of color,” said her 35-year-old sister, who lives in Oakland. “When she interviewed me, I was surprised by the positive energy she sends to her interviewees. I am proud to have a sister who always inspires and motivates the people around her.

A caller called after hearing the story and said it inspired her to go back to nursing school, Mendoza said.

In 2023, she hopes two authors will appear as guests on the show. One of them is her favorite author, Reyna Grande, a Mexican author who writes books about her life before and after arriving in the United States as an undocumented immigrant child. The other is Isabel Allende, a local Chilean author.

Since Mendoza created an Instagram for the show, she plans to expand and reach women online who live across the country.

“I want people to know that sharing their story is more important than they think,” Mendoza said. “You never know how your story impacts others.”

You can reach editor Mya Constantino at @searchingformya on Twitter.

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