Former radio host Oscar Contreras embraces his role as a unifier. ‘I really like doing this stuff.’ – VCU news



Contreras, who was appointed Richmond Times-Dispatch Personality of the Year in 2020, has been the guest chair at WBTK for 15 years, when the Christian station switched from English to Spanish. Contreras, who was a photography student at Virginia Commonwealth University School of the Arts at the time of the switchover, was already listening and called to offer help. The manager said he needed a Spanish speaking host connected to the community.

While Contreras was not studying journalism or broadcasting, he had his hand on the pulse of Hispanics in the Richmond area.

“Oscar is a very good radio host who is very well connected with the community,” said Glenn Motto, director of the WBTK station. “It’s his passion to work with and improve the lives of people in the community by connecting them to available resources. This is his strength. He has always been passionate about improving people, reaching out to people, letting people know what is available in the community, and solving the issues he sees in the community. He knows exactly who to talk to, to be able to help, to fix the problem. “

Attracted by community and creative work

Born in Guatemala, Contreras immigrated to Culpeper County, Virginia with his mother at the age of 12 to reunite with his father, who had come to the United States a decade earlier. Contreras transferred to VCU from Germanna Community College, gaining experience in community work as a teenager. He took pictures for his high school yearbook, got involved in social services and community organizing as a volunteer for AmeriCorps, where he hosted the Culpeper County Latino Festival which continues to this day. hui.

Contreras pursued photography at VCU and aspired to work at National Geographic. Magic, that’s how he described his work in the darkroom, even as digital photography developed. While at VCU, Contreras continued his community work at the Multicultural Affairs office in Richmond as a Community Liaison Officer, becoming a leader and helping Hispanic residents of Latin America. In 2006, during a VCU-sponsored art-focused trip to Peru, he met Rachel Harris. They tied the knot in 2008, during spring break just before he graduated.

Oscar Contreras and his wife, Rachel, at their VCU graduation ceremony. (Courtesy of Oscar Contreras)

Another creative outlet was the switch to radio.

“At first I didn’t feel safe,” Contreras said. “But with audio, I’m able to go to events, take pictures, come back and report. I learned that I can use my creativity in different ways.

He listened to National Public Radio to soak up the key news of the day. He also absorbed criticism from listeners and family to develop his own style.

Contreras and his wife homeschool their four children. The couple also run a wedding class at Branches Baptist Church, where Contreras is a deacon.

Media for a growing Spanish-speaking population

Census data shows that 7% of the approximately 1.3 million people in the Richmond metropolitan area identify as Hispanic. Although Radio Poder does not track the number of listeners, Contreras said those who do log in are mostly bilingual women. The countries of origin represented are Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua and Puerto Rico.

There are a few other secular Spanish language radio stations in Richmond with a fair amount of community content. But Radio Poder, part of Mount Rich Media LLC, is a family-focused Christian broadcaster.

Contreras’ radio shows include a mix of scripture, encouragement and community information. Its posts reflect the current themes and rhythms of Richmond, particularly the growing population of Spanish speakers who need up-to-date local news and information.

Contreras’ post is one of the affirmations and positivity with quirky phrases he uses to uplift his audience

“No dejes que nada ni nadie robe las bendiciones que el Señor tiene para ti el dia de hoy,” he said regularly into the microphone, which translates to: Do ​​not let anyone steal your blessings that God has for you on this day. .



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