It's hard to comprehend that it was only back in 1999 when Luis and Lupita Montoto had started La Movida Spanish radio by renting time on a station on the weekends and selling advertising while working a cleaning business to support themselves and their dream. The La Movida van would come to community events like the Latino Health Fair at Holy Redeemer Church and broadcast live.
      The Montotos have come a long ways since then. In 2001, they moved their operations to S. Park Street where they began to broadcast part-time on 1480 Am and ran a satellite TV and an electronic money transfer business as well as the Voz Latina      newspaper. People could look in through the windows as the Monotos and Diego Compoverde broadcast live from their their cramped studio.
      On October 14, 2002, La Movida began to take off as the Monotos solidified their relationship with Mid-West Family Broadcasting and began to broadcast 24/7 with a combination of live and canned programming. "Initially, I was hesitant to switch over to Mid-West Family Broadcasting because I wanted to keep the old time roots feel of the station," Luis Montoto observed as we sat in La Movida's    offices in Mid-West Family's modern broadcast facilities on Ray-O-Vac Drive. "Sometimes, that connection wouldn't be so good being so exposed to the public. I don't mean that in a bad way. Sometimes there are limitations in that regard with quality and interruptions. We had a window and everyone could see what was going on. Initially it sounds really nice and romantic. But it's not how to take on a radio station the professional way. It's not a mom and pop shop. I wanted to make it a more professional operation and wanted people to look at us as professionals."
      Then, 2-3 years ago, La Movida moved into Mid-West Family's facility that now housed all of its radio stations. And with the move came the latest in broadcast technology. "The mixing board you see in the studio is just for appearance to make it more human      like," Montoto said. "Inside the mixing board, there aren't any cables. It's just fiber optics that go down to engineering. The microphones aren't hooked up to the board. They are sent directly to where the main central computer is. Then engineering assigns it to a certain board. Each station has a compressor and there is an apparatus that regulates the volume because some songs are too 'hot' where they are too loud, even off the CD. There are certain songs that sound louder than others. Whether it is the song or the microphone, the compressor levels everything off. That's for each station and then the signal is sent to the transmitter in a way so that the transmitter doesn't work too hot either."
      Gone are the days when the DJ cues up every song on a CD or record album. All of the music on the rotation has been digitized and can be automatically called up to play from Mid-West Family's mainframe server. Yet the personal touch hasn't totally disappeared. "I give the DJs the freedom and that's why we have the CDs in the studio in case people have a request that doesn't make the rotation, but is good enough to be played on the air," Montoto said. "But all of the programming is done through automation."
      And along with the relationship with Mid-West Family, comes a state-of-the-art music service that allows Montoto to know almost at the touch of a button which songs are getting the most plays on any radio station in Latino markets across the country. Montoto knows what's going to be hot almost before it knows it's going to be hot. Montoto can stay on top of the game.
      The day for Montoto starts at 4:30 a.m. when he arises to prepare for the first live broadcast of the day.  "I'm the morning guy from 6-9 a.m., Montoto observed.  "It's Luis Montoto's Morning Show Drive. From 9-10 a.m.,  we do 'El Debate.' Diego Compoverde, Ruben Barahona and my wife Lupita are involved. Then we have two hours of regular automated programming. At noon, we have a midday romantic show called 'Amor Y Pasion.'  It's one hour of real romantic music. It's about love and passion regarding music. It's older music; it's all  kinds of romantic love music. From 1-3 p.m., Lupita does 'A Todo Ritmo con Lupita Montoto.' Diego does the afternoon drive from 3-6 p.m. And then 6 p.m. to 6 a.m., we play automated music, what we call music in a can. There is no DJ, except what I like to call our 'Digital DJ.'"
      On any given day, listeners can hear New Reggaeton, Tropical, pop music, and varieties of Mexican music such as Norteo,      Duranguense, Mariachi, Banda, Ranchero and old music.
      Yet for all of the technology and automation, some of the things that make La Movida run-- like advertising -- are done the old      fashion way, hitting the pavement and selling advertising. And even La Movida, a successful Spanish radio station, has found chasing the advertising dollar difficult these days. "Right now, things are pretty good for us, but we are also feeling the effect of the economic      recession being experienced by the entire country," Montoto said.  "All this week, I've been going door-to-door visiting clients. And I hadn't done that in a long time. We have been so busy here and the clients usually come in by themselves. Nowadays, we're out      knocking on doors. It's not easy for anyone right now."
      While La Movida is a business, Montoto also partners with many community organizations and government agencies to keep the Latino public informed about health, immigration and other issues. He also feels that it is important to project an accurate image of the Latino community. "It's a constant battle regarding informing the general public of the Latino culture, which is very diverse," Montoto emphasized. "We've tried to promote the Latino culture. And even though we've done a good job, I think there are still a lot of      misconceptions about the Latino community out there in terms of it being 'transient.' Another misconception is that Latinos do not speak English. I would say most Latinos are bilingual. During the past five years, we have tried to eradicate those misconceptions that the general American public has regarding the Latino community and the immigrant community."
      While La Movida is successful, Montoto knows that he cannot set the station on ";cruise control" and tune out.  "Keeping the station fresh isn't always as easy as it seems," Montoto said. "We've added so many new segments to the station. We have Jorge Ramos, the Univision reporter doing news segments. We have CNN doing the news. We have Sports Minute and the Bloomberg Minute, the financial minute and we have some entertainment news that we'll run every single hour."
      Montoto feels pretty blessed with all that he has right now. He went to lunch with some financia advisors who pressed him to tell them what he wanted to do when he retires. "I could do what I am doing now until the day I die," Montoto related. "They actually told me that it was either three or seven percent of the workforce in America that is actually happy doing what they are doing. I think that is a number that has to be increased. It's unfortunate that a lot of people don't get to do what they want or are happy doing it."
      Montoto feels that he has hit his niche and doesn't have any real ambition to expand beyond what he is already doing. He and Lupita are happily married and he is basically in the process of fulfilling his dreams. "I think our plate is pretty much full," Montoto said. "I would not want anything else. If I put anything else on my plate, things will start falling off. I'm pretty happy as I am."
      The Montotos are a blessed couple indeed.
La Movida Spanish language radio station celebrates five years
A voice of the community
By Jonathan Gramling
Luis Montoto (left) and his wife Lupita have grown La Movida into a 24/7 Spanish language radio station.
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