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One of the many benefits of living in a diverse community like Kennett Square is the opportunity to see this place we call home through the eyes of those who have come here from very different, and often exceedingly difficult, places. Roberth Rojo brings an inspiring dose of joyful optimism and gratitude into our pandemic-weary midst.
Rojo, with his wife Yilda Rebolledo and their two sons, Roger and Reynaldo, fled their home in La Victoria, Venezuela—a city nestled in the Rio Tuy Valley in the state of Aragua, about 50 miles southwest of Caracas—in 2018.
Rojo had spent 13 years as CEO and co-owner of a radio station in La Victoria when he was forced to shut down in the face of mounting pressure from the government. His wife, who trained as a radiographer, also owned a business that she had to leave behind. The family came to the US seeking asylum from the severe political persecution and economic crisis in Venezuela, which had only worsened after the spring 2018 election of President Nicolás Maduro, the political heir of Hugo Chávez.
“Friends recommended we come to Kennett Square,” Rojo says. And so they arrived here with nothing, to start over. Rojo, with his degree from Universidad Central de Venezuela and 20 years of experience in radio, found a job as a manual laborer at a mushroom farm.
Despite these difficult circumstances, Rojo is full of joy and hope—and gratitude to the community here in Kennett Square. “So many people helped us with all kinds of things, like finding housing, furniture, getting the kids into school. And that Christmas—” he gestures widely, his eyes smiling above his face mask, “we had lots and lots of presents—so many presents.” This warm welcome, he says, came from across the Kennett community, “from Americans as well as Hispanic people—we had a lot of help.”
A New Dream
As he and his family settled in, Rojo began to look for jobs in radio but found they were all in Philadelphia, Dover, or even further away. “So one day,” he says, “it came to me—why not start a Latino radio station here?” Although he was excited about the idea, he had lingering doubts. “I kept thinking,” he says. “Yes or no? I didn’t know what would happen. I knew it wouldn’t be easy, because the bills keep coming and need to be paid.” But when the US government officially granted the family political asylum, Rojo says, he made a decision. “Vamos! Let’s do it!” That was in February 2020.
Everyone has a quarantine story—an accounting of how they’ve spent this time and how it has shaped them. Rojo has spent these months rebuilding his dream. With the help of his son Roger, now a senior at Kennett High School, he built a website, launched social media pages, found a physical home for the station in offices at 106 West State Street, and has brought all the various elements of this monumental project nearly to completion.
We really appreciate all the help people in this small town have given us.
Starting from the ground up has meant that Rojo has drawn on every aspect of his decades of experience in radio, from marketing and advertising to program selection and voice-over. Listeners tuning in to KennetticaRadio.com right now can hear live testing and Rojo’s distinctive deep voice announcing his new station’s tagline, “La que suena Happy!” and proudly proclaiming the home of his headquarters, “Kennett Square, Capital Mundial del Hongo.” It was important to Rojo to name his station after Kennett. “We really appreciate all the help people in this small town have given us,” he says. “And it sounds like a radio station!”
Kennettica Radio hopes to begin broadcasting from its State Street offices later this month. The station will broadcast 24/7, with a varied schedule of music and news as well as local programming. “Our mission is to bring joy, entertainment, and information, and to be a helping hand for all—una mano amiga,” Rojo says. “We want to support this community in any way we can. We want to give a voice to people around Kennett Square and throughout the region.” That voice is particularly important for Latinos, but Rojo also sees Kennettica Radio as a connector, a means of bringing people from different backgrounds together. One of his many ideas is to host a program run by high school students. “I want two American students and two Latino students to do this together, to forge a cultural connection.”
Our mission is to bring joy, entertainment, and information, and to be a helping hand for all—una mano amiga.
The music itself also has a key role to play in making cultural connections. “People sometimes think I’m Mexican because there are many people from Mexico, or of Mexican descent, here,” Rojo says. But it’s important to recognize and celebrate the rich diversity of Latinx culture in this area. “People have also come here from Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, Colombia, Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Venezuela—and this is the first radio station where you’re going to hear music from all of these traditions,” Rojo says. Kennettica Radio will play the Latino top ten as well as merengue, salsa, balada, bachata, reggaetón, cumbia—and American music as well. “I also want to play romantic music in the evenings,” Rojo says with a smile, “la hora del amor.”
Rojo is looking forward to engaging further with the community and is eager for audience feedback. And he’d love to talk with anyone who has ideas or wants to highlight a community service. “Our doors will be open and the microphones will be on!” he says.
As a father, Rojo has passed on his work ethic, big dreams, and love of professional motorsport to his sons. One of Roger’s hobbies is karting, and he looks forward to representing Kennett Square in the sport someday.
Rojo says he’s grateful to Historic Kennett Square Executive Director Bo Wright and Nate Echeverria, Economic Development Director, to Joanne Scott from Square Roots Collective, and to many others for their help. He’s also a man of faith and is grateful to God for his provision for him and his family.
In this time of distancing and division, Kennettica Radio promises to capture the many voices of Kennett Square, deepening our connections and broadening our understanding of our diverse community.
Follow Kennettica Radio at KennetticaRadio.com and on social media @kennetticaradio and download the Kennettica Radio app in the App Store or Google Play.