Puerto Rico’s Radiored is ending an era. An independent radio station announced yesterday that it was closing its San Juan storefront.
After Hurricane Maria in 2017, Radiored opened its coffee shop, record store, and hangout spot where local and guest DJs would broadcast live and where touring artists performed ahead of concerts at local clubs.
According to the caption of the Facebook post about the closure, the band has gone underground to continue playing #m*sicafresca. Payola Isabel can be seen standing with her hand on hip in the corresponding photo inside the former headquarters. Her expression is stoic and melancholy at the same time. She looks particularly strong, however.
All that remains of the space is a cluster of stickers still attached to the front window, the only trace of its former use.
Isabel says that, even though there won’t be a physical place and programming may change, “the essence of Radiored will always be there.”
radiored.com.mx new base is being built inside her own apartment, says co-founder Etienne Cardona, who handles the bulk of the work The technical aspects of the project. Also, a reworking of the transmission framework is necessary.
Isabel is also figuring out logistical puzzles: “With the pandemic, it’s not feasible to send people,” she says.
There are still strict restrictions in place to help curb the virus’ spread in Puerto Rico since the lockdown started in March.
There was a possibility of another transformation for Radiored even before this. In January’s 6.4-magnitude earthquake in the southern region, the damage and displacement affected both business and her focus: “We didn’t have any desire to do anything other than go out and help [those affected].”.
It was the pandemic shutdown that prompted Radiored to officially enter a new phase.
The loss of the storefront means losing the possibility of meeting like minded people with similar interests around the world and seeing one-off performances by touring artists, of which there were many. Isabel says that Radiored’s physical space served as a space for cultural exchange, like a cultural hub. It won’t be the same without it.
Several months ago, Radiored began featuring mixtapes from artists like Helado Negro, Mula, iLe, and Lola Pistola that were inspired by our current social-distancing reality. Radiored’s Mixcloud offers those mixtapes and an archive of past programming.
Radiored has succeeded in adapting rather than giving up despite the challenges the world has thrown its way: founder departures, crisis post-Maria (remember the island-wide blackout? ), Puerto Rico’s long-since ravaged economy, and so on.
Isabel describes closing the storefront as painful. Once again, Radiored has the opportunity to shapeshift.
“I think it’s time to take the project more remote, do shows in other countries, do residencies in other countries, and do takeovers there,” Isabel says. For me, building bridges and allyship is very important. This will always be on my mind.