How Independent Puerto Rican Station Radiored Is Adapting & Pushing Culture Forward Right Now

Courtesy of the artist

The COVID-19 pandemic has wreaked havoc on many a cultural institution, and Radiored, Puerto Rico’s independent community radio station, is unfortunately on that long and upsetting list. Radiored was originally founded in 2015 as an online-only venture and then expanded to a storefront where programming expanded to include live performances and interviews. In May, co-founder Payola Isabel announced the closure of its storefront, which served also a coffee shop and record store.

Radiored was originally founded in 2015 as an online-only venture. But she also promised it wasn’t the end—and today, Radiored is back, reincarnated. Their latest project is a residency, officially known as La Residencia, that was made possible thanks to a partnership with NYC’s Abrons Arts Center and Pública, multi-use cultural space in San Juan, and a grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, a private philanthropic effort to support arts and humanities. The residency, which will run through December 23, includes weekly live-streamed radio shows featuring artists from Puerto Rico, Latin America, and Spain as well as a showcase of profiles of four San Juan-based creatives.*

An opportunity to ‘bring us closer as a diasporic community.’

Abrons saw this as an opportunity to “bring together musicians [from] Puerto Rico and across Latin America,” their Director of Programming, Ali Rosa-Salas, tells Remezcla. Pública co-founder and Curatorial Resident Natalia Viera-Salgado echoed that statement, noting that it’s an opportunity to “bring us closer as a diasporic community.”

To kick things off, a compilation titled Fiebre Cabina Vol. 1, composed entirely of unreleased tracks from artists like Balún, Pachyman, Florentino, Louis Louis, Tayhana and more, debuts today.

In celebration of the release and the launch of the residency, Pública’s doors will be open (by appointment, because COVID) Friday afternoon and early evening so folks can check out the pop-up station where Bairoa and Dr. Digital Aché will DJ. Central to the setup, Isabel tells Remezcla, is the iconic sticker-covered glass window of the former Radiored storefront.

Whether watching live or in person, Isabel says visitors will “feel the essence of what the store was.”

Remezcla spoke with Payola Isabel to learn more about La Residencia and how it ushers Radiored into a new era while embracing nostalgia for its past.

Tell us about the motivation behind this residency.

Radiored was, bit by bit, developing something that is about cultural exchange; that’s always been one of my goals, to get community radio stations across the world connected. We want to show people what’s happening internationally, and show people elsewhere what we’re doing here.

This is about cultural exchange.

So it’s a continuation of Radiored—another stage.

We realized that Radiored has always depended on what’s happening in the moment, in the world. For example, we rented the store before Hurricane Maria, then we were four months with the store closed and no electricity. We were painting by the day, taking advantage of the sunlight. We opened in January of 2018, and in those first few months the electricity was super inconsistent. We always pushed forward and never let anything hold us back.

The window of the storefront, with all the stickers, we took it out—and today we put it up in Pública. It’s a bit of nostalgia. I’m bringing some of the past materials into the present. I’m keeping it going, bringing it into now, with what’s happening with the pandemic, to see what happens. Radiored will continue to adapt.

What does the future look like for Radiored? 

I always saw this project as a means for going to other places, for exchange. This is the first time we have a temporary space to see how we can make a model for doing things; now I know what I need in a space. I can pack it up into a suitcase and take it to other places.

Radiored will continue to adapt.

I also see the project in seasons; this is one era for us. The store was an era, a stage. And it’s our first time doing a compilation—I’d like to keep doing that. I love the idea of more or less having a production house, so little by little we might move toward that.

I also love that Abrons is working with Pública. We get to show Abrons what’s happening here: This is what we have, this is what we’ve been doing for years.

Note: The author of this piece is among those slated to be profiled by Radiored.