Marcos Gutierrez -- A Tireless Voice for San Francisco Latinos

Marcos Gutierrez -- A Tireless Voice for San Francisco Latinos

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SAN FRANCISCO – Anyone who listens to Spanish language radio in the Bay Area knows the name Marcos Gutierrez. And if you’re even slightly connected to the Latino community here then chances are he knows you too.

“If people have something to say then I bring them on the air,” says Gutierrez, host of Hecho en California (Made in California). With over 40 years of broadcast experience, Gutierrez’ radio program offers a voice to the Bay Area’s growing Latino community.

According to a 2013 report from the Pew Research Center, there are over one million Latinos in the Bay Area, a majority of them from Mexico. For many access to news of home and of their community can be hard to come by. Gutierrez says of late his show has focused on anti-government protests in Venezuela, recent elections in El Salvador, the evictions affecting Bay Area residents and deportations affecting Latino families nationwide.

“I try to reflect what I think the community needs, and hope that at the very least we are not dumbing down our community,” says Gutierrez.

Juan Gonzalez is the founder of the bilingual newspaper El Tecolote, which serves primarily San Francisco’s Latino community. He describes Gutierrez as a pioneer in Spanish-language programming. “He’s a role model for others to follow,” he says, praising Gutierrez’ knack for uncovering stories relevant both to mainstream audiences and to the community he serves.

Listeners also get a dose of Gutierrez’ bold personality.

Antonio Arenas, a student at San Francisco State University, remembers listening to Gutierrez as a young boy. “Every morning on my way to school, while eating breakfast, my aunt would listen to him,” said Arenas. “My aunt thinks he’s scandalous because he’s more animated and so energetic, but he makes the show exciting.”

Gutierrez was born in Juarez, Mexico and immigrated to the United States when he was 11 years old. His devotion to the community gained renewed vigor during his college years at the University of Texas at El Paso. “The revolution was beginning and I was a revolutionary,” recalls Gutierrez, recounting an experience with a group of friends who decided to take down a confederate flag hanging outside one of the school’s sorority houses.

Aware of the social changes happening in the 1960s, Gutierrez decided that if he wanted to make a change, he had to do it in a bigger city where he could have more of an influence. So he moved to San Francisco.

He began his radio career with KPIX, an affiliate of CBS and KRON 4, an affiliate of NBC, along with other national broadcast stations. But he wasn’t satisfied.

“They cover the news, but they're not going to come out and be rah rah for the folks, the community. They're not going to work to better [the community’s] situation,” said Gutierrez.

Ever the activist, Gutierrez decided to go back to school and graduated from the University of San Francisco with a doctorate in education focused on broadcasting. “The only way [to] really make a difference in our society is if we as Latinos were to own and operate our own medium,” he said.

Walking the street with Gutierrez can be a lot like appearing on his show. A quick hello and he begins his playful third degree about what folks are doing with their lives, what events are they attending, when are they going to stop by the radio show to discuss some issues and why haven’t they called.

It’s an envied skill for those who can keep up with him on and off the radio.

“He allows community members to take the mic and gives them a voice on a daily basis, but sometimes it seems like he’s going a hundred miles per hour. That’s his style though,” said Felix Kury, director of Clínica Martín-Baró, a free healthcare clinic that caters primarily to the Latino community.

Kury is not the only to get a taste of that spontaneous personality. During an interview for this article, this reporter was put to the test when Gutierrez handed her the microphone, headphones, and a news clipping to review as he simultaneously introduced her live on the air. “I know you have something to say,” he told her.

Vanessa Serpas studies journalism at San Francisco State University. This story is part of a series profiling members of Bay Area's ethnic media.