One winter morning in 2013, Pedro Biaggi arrived at 5 a.m. at the Rockville office of La Nueva, WDCN-FM 87.7, the Spanish-language radio station where he hosted a weekday show. Outside the office, he was surprised to find a car with a man inside who was crying and holding a baby in his arms.
When Biaggi approached, the man said that federal immigration officers had arrived a few hours earlier at his home in Maryland and taken his wife in order to deport her back to their native country, Guatemala.
Biaggi, now 60, says he didn’t know what to do. But it soon occurred to him that he could use his radio show to share the man’s story and ask for advice. “Immediately, I had responses from professionals and immigration lawyers who listened and gave me all kinds of resources and options,” says the host of the weekday Pedro Biaggi Show. The morning-drive program now airs on La Pantera at 100.7 FM and 1220 AM, La Nueva’s sister station in Falls Church, Virginia, from 6 to 10 a.m. Monday through Friday.
That incident offers an example of why Biaggi is passionate about working in radio, a job he dreamed about since he was a young child and first visited a radio station, meeting the host and staff, while growing up in his native Puerto Rico. What impressed him the most was that the announcers could tell impactful stories just by using their voices.
“From that moment on, I dreamed and was determined that someday I was going to have my radio station,” he says. “I learned that I did not necessarily have to have a camera in front of me to be of interest to my people; I could be helpful to them through the radio. Being serviceable to a population comes from the heart.”
Now a resident of Washington, D.C., Biaggi is the president and general manager of La Nueva and La Pantera, both of which broadcast in Spanish for the Hispanic community living in Maryland, Virginia and the District. Hispanics make up about 11% of the population in Maryland, and 20% of Montgomery County.
The two stations are part of Costa Media, a multimedia Hispanic-owned broadcasting company based in New York. “We aim to have an impact on the Latino community in the area. We discuss the issues as they are, without being decorated or sounding pretty,” Biaggi says.
While La Nueva has been broadcasting since 2011 on a variety of topics, including local breaking news, and held discussions about immigration issues, La Pantera, which began broadcasting in July, focuses on sports, and its main audience is the region’s Mexican community. “I was extremely proud of us when La Pantera became the local official broadcaster of the 2022 World Cup,” Biaggi says.
There are a total of 10 hosts between the two radio stations. Their objective is to “make this combo the No. 1 in the DMV radio market” by efficiently and quickly transmitting high-quality, up-to-the-minute information to their listeners, Biaggi says. “We represent a community that needs to have a voice,” he adds.
Once La Nueva started broadcasting, Biaggi and his staff realized that Latino residents were deeply interested in immigration issues and that the station should provide time to discuss the topic. The program Los Reyes de la Mañana, which airs from 6 to 10 a.m. weekdays on the station, conducts a daily discussion on the subject. Katherine Canto, an immigration lawyer and Bethesda resident who also is passionate about broadcasting, has been a regular guest on the show since January 2020, answering listeners’ questions about the latest immigration issues.
“Throughout the years in the radio show, I have listened to stories and cases that are very difficult to solve,” says Canto, adding that she always does her best to appropriately address questions posed on air. She finds that callers are often seeking basic information, like how to obtain permanent residency or a green card, or how to petition on behalf of a family member.
Canto says Hispanic residents in the D.C. metro area have been an essential part of the audience at La Nueva and now La Pantera. “We always seek to care and respect the culture of our listeners, because the most important thing for us is always to promote inclusion and respect. I truly have a great affection for them,” he adds.
Biaggi notes that the D.C. area is a multiethnic region with people whose traditions deserve to be appreciated. “For me, it was necessary to find a space where Latinos find the confidence to discuss sensitive issues such as migration and where they can also enjoy music and sports from their countries,” he says.
The stations’ goal for 2023 is “to see what opportunities there are to help my people and how we can reach their lives as Spanish-speaking radio stations…to make them happy with what they are looking for the most, the famous American dream.”