GROWING UP IN OCOTLÁN, JALISCO, MÉXICO, as the rancho’s ?class clown, Eddie “Piolín” Sotelo would watch Mário Almada films screened by a traveling projectionist on a white sheet. Almada is the Mexican Clint Eastwood and Charles Bronson wrapped into one. The land to el norte was often discussed in these films, and from there Piolín (which means “Tweety Bird”) started dreaming about going to the U.S. and doing something special. But never in his wildest dreams could he have imagined being the host of La Nueva 101.9 KSCA-FM’s morning show, the No. 1 radio program (Spanish or other-wise) in the U.S. Nor would he have imagined that someday he would become one of the most powerful figures in the current immigration debate by using his platform to help rally a half-million protesters to peacefully march in downtown L.A. on March 25 against the U.S. House anti-immigration bill.
Unlike many in the Hollywood entertainment industry, Piolín really connects with his listeners because, well, he’s one of them. He shares his personal immigrant story of crossing the border in a car trunk and fighting off both immigration officers and the courts, who wanted to deport him, by presenting as fact his hard work as a radio locutor andas a productive U.S. citizen who shared in the American Dream.
In a time when hatemongers and opportunists continue to scapegoat Mexicans and other Latinos for this country’s social and political ills, Piolín and his personal story of working hard, persevering and succeeding speaks loudly against the stereotypical image of immigrant criminals who want to leech off the system. Piolín, like many in the Latino community, continues to emphatically answer his radio show’s mantra: A que venimos a Los Estados Unidos?