May 1, 2006

“Tweety Bird,” “Baboon” help fuel protests

By Arthur Spiegelman

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Normally they chatter, joke and
play music with a driving beat but on Monday "Tweety Bird" and
"The Baboon" helped fill the streets of Los Angeles with
hundreds of thousands of immigrants demanding to become

The Spanish language radio personalities of southern
California and many other regions have been the de facto
leaders of a Latino call to protest on immigrant rights.

And their listeners -- in the United States both legally
and illegally -- have been paying close heed as they drive from
job to job, a group united by their car radios.

"Latino media, both print and broadcast, have played an
important role (in bringing people out), especially when you
consider that there is no single leader like a Cesar Chavez or
Martin Luther King Jr. of this movement," said University of
Southern California journalism professor Felix Gutierrez.

It is Latino media -- led by radio personalities like
Ricardo "El Mandril" ("The Baboon") Sanchez, Renan "El Cucuy"
("The Boogeyman") Almendarez Coello and Eddie "El Piolin"
("Tweety Bird") Sotelo -- that helped turn a Los Angeles
immigrant rights protest in March from a rally expected to draw
20,000 people into a demonstration of 500,000.

The protest turned heads in Washington and suggested that a
sleeping political giant was about to awaken -- an impression
reinforced by Monday's "Day without Immigrants" demonstrations
and work boycotts across the country.

"Usually these radio personalities give advice, give the
weather and play music. Now they are working together as a
community sounding board and getting a huge response,"
Gutierrez said.


Disc jockey Sotelo, known to his listeners as "El Piolin,"
says he knows what it is like to be an illegal immigrant.

"I was working three different jobs every day, and I know
the feeling when you got fired just because you don't have a
green card ... they (employers) make you feel like you're not
worthy," he told Reuters.

Sotelo, whose show "Piolin in the Morning" emanates from
KCSA in Los Angeles and is syndicated in 15 other regions, said
it was up to each individual to decide how he wanted to

"I've been telling listeners that before they protest they
have to first talk to their family. Everybody has a different
opinion," he said.

"I've told them if they can't get off work, ask the owner
of the business or their supervisor to write letters to
senators telling them how much they need and appreciate
immigrant labor ... One of the things I would like to see is
that people know we are not here to do damage to anyone."

Los Angeles disc jockey Nico Jones said that the moment of
truth came to him when he learned the details of a bill passed
by the House of Representatives which would make undocumented
immigrants and those who help them felons.

"I was making jokes and playing paying music on air and
then I realized how outrageous that bill was and I said we need
to bring this to light," he said.

He added that he never told listeners what to do but what
they should know.

(Additional reporting by Bob Tourtellotte)