Sounds of Belonging

U.S. Spanish-language Radio and Public Advocacy

224 pages

1 halftone

October, 2014

ISBN: 9780814770245



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Dolores Inés Casillas is Assistant Professor in Chicana and Chicano Studies and a faculty affiliate of Film & Media Studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara. 

All books by Dolores Ines Casillas

How Spanish-language radio has influenced American and Latino discourse on key current affairs issues such as citizenship and immigration. 

Winner, Book of the Year presented by the American Association of Hispanics in Higher Education

Honorable Mention for the 2015 Latino Studies Best Book presented by the Latin American Studies Association
The last two decades have produced continued Latino population growth, and marked shifts in both communications and immigration policy. Since the 1990s, Spanish- language radio has dethroned English-language radio stations in major cities across the United States, taking over the number one spot in Los Angeles, Houston, Miami, and New York City. Investigating the cultural and political history of U.S. Spanish-language broadcasts throughout the twentieth century, Sounds of Belonging reveals how these changes have helped Spanish-language radio secure its dominance in the major U.S. radio markets.
Bringing together theories on the immigration experience with sound and radio studies, Dolores Inés Casillas documents how Latinos form listening relationships with Spanish-language radio programming. Using a vast array of sources, from print culture and industry journals to sound archives of radio programming, she reflects on institutional growth, the evolution of programming genres, and reception by the radio industry and listeners to map the trajectory of Spanish-language radio, from its grassroots origins to the current corporate-sponsored business it has become. Casillas focuses on Latinos’ use of Spanish-language radio to help navigate their immigrant experiences with U.S. institutions, for example in broadcasting discussions about immigration policies while providing anonymity for a legally vulnerable listenership. Sounds of Belonging proposes that debates of citizenship are not always formal personal appeals but a collective experience heard loudly through broadcast radio.


  • "Casillas offers an incisive analysis of the origins and evolution of Spanish-language radio in the US and its key role in shaping the public discourse about citizenship and immigration issues in the 20th century. With precision and engaging storytelling, Casillas describes how radio became a critical medium that gave Latino/as and Chicano/as access to a public forum about matters that affected them directly in a country where many were socially and culturally disenfranchised….This book is a much-needed contribution to conversations about the complex dynamics at the intersections of mass media, language, race, and social justice issues."


  • “Dolores Ines Casillas’s important study sheds new light on Spanish-language radio, noting how it allows marginalized Latinos to claim a place within a hostile environment.”

    The Journal of American History

  • Sounds of Belonging provides insightful, original research on important developments in Spanish-language radio and makes a unique contribution to the field. Casillasenriches our understanding of U.S. radio history and Latino culture.”

    —Joy Hayes, author of Radio Nation: Communication, Popular Culture, and Nationalism in Mexico

  • “Methodically argued and supported with rare archival detail, Sounds of Belonging provides a sorely needed account of U.S. Mexican community radio and Chicano-based Spanish-language radio. Beautifully written and thoroughly researched, Sounds of Belonging makes a significant intervention into Latina/o media studies and media history more generally.”

    —Isabel Molina-Guzman, author of Dangerous Curves: Latina Bodies in the Media