chapter  9
16 Pages

El Octopus Acústico: Broadcasting and Empire in the Caribbean

WithAlejandra Bronfman

To think about radio in the 1940s Caribbean is to comprehend multiple technologies, listening practices, networks, and audiences in which both domestic and transnational negotiations played a part. In Havana, listeners might tune in to one of dozens of stations from the moment they woke up until deep into the night. They could choose news or they might wait to hear about the love aff air on their favorite telenovela. On certain days they might enjoy the strains of a new band or singer, or the voice of a politician making a bid for their loyalty. Ads brought them into a world in which they would be persuaded that Colgate or Palmolive existed to make their lives better. Many would listen at home, on their General Electric or Westinghouse receivers. Depending on their wealth and interest in the medium, they would have bought a large, elegant receiver for their living room, or a smaller more practical one. Or they might listen in one of many cafés or bars with sets whose sounds spilled into the streets. Perennially open windows and doors allowed sounds to fl ow between homes and sidewalks, so it was diffi cult to stroll without hearing something on the radio. And one of the city’s most popular gathering spots was Radiocentro, a complex that housed the main radio station, and at which crowds gathered to listen to the loudspeakers blasting the day’s programming.1