BOSTON — Radio station WUNR is an electronic Tower of Babel where Greeks, Poles, Vietnamese and members of 10 other ethnic groups rent air time to promote faith healing, spin records or just talk in their native languages.
"This is a crazy place to work," said Luis Perez Pena, host of a Spanish-language show at the 5,000-watt AM station.
"This is the only station in Massachusetts that never changed its original purpose, to give a voice to the little people," said operations manager Norman Ruby.
Owned by businessman Herbert Hoffman, WUNR rents time 24 hours a day to representatives of 13 ethnic groups, whose announcers design and promote their shows and sell their own commercials.
Programs range from "Gilda and Gino," an Italian brother-and-sister team, to "Father Justin's Rosary Hour" in Polish.
The station also has allowed some veteran foreign-language announcers to return to the microphone after years of working non-broadcast jobs in the United States.
Joaquin Sune was a popular radio announcer in Cuba until he was fired for trying to emigrate almost 30 years ago. Arriving in Boston in 1969, he worked in a Revere sugar refinery and as a machine operator in a meat plant.
In 1980, Sune began broadcasting a 15-minute program on WUNR. He now hosts two shows totaling 1 1/2 hours daily: "Voz Continental," or "The Continental Voice," and "Atardecer Romantico," or "Romantic Evening," a half-hour "dedicated to souls in love."
He pays the station $43.65 for each half-hour and hawks $6 and $8 advertising spots himself. Hourly rates at the station run as high as $200 for prime weekend spots. 'If 20,000 Hispanics are listening to Spanish radio, they're listening to me.'
didn't see any future," Sune told the Boston Sunday Globe. "Now this is my business and it takes up all my time."
Boston has 38 commercial radio stations, but "because this is the only station in Boston for Hispanics, if 20,000 Hispanics are listening to Spanish radio, they're listening to me. That's quite a privilege," he said.
Demos Kakridas, 85, has been host of the program "Greece Speaks" for 47 years. Station officials said that because of his loyal following and prominence in the community, Kakridas, unlike other announcers, is allowed to pepper his program with political commentary.
"The Greek people listen to me," he said. "I bring them the right news. I try to bring back the glory that was Greece."
Jane A. Dunklee, WUNR general manager, said that during her 17 years at the station she has occasionally mediated in rivalries between the program hosts, including one between two Spanish programs that resulted in a fistfight in the studio.
"This is a bunch of little stations that make up one big station," she said. "I'm your basic WASP, so I can set myself aside as a neutral party."