The blues radio show that brought Cuenca expats together 15 years ago is back on the air
By Sylvan Hardy
Expat radio host Ron Gordon is back on the air. In fact, it’s Gordon’s third time broadcasting Café Blues on Cuenca’s Antena Uno (www.antenauno.com), 90.5 FM. His first broadcasts date back to 1995 when he took a break from his law practice in the U.S. to teach English literature and writing to high level English students at local language schools.
To many long-time expats, however, Gordon is best known for his remote broadcasts from the old Café Eucalyptus in 2007 and 2008, at the beginning of expat rush to Cuenca. The Eucalyptus, now home of Fractal on Calle Gran Colombia, was attracting a small happy hour crowd of locals and expats when owner Leslie Breen welcomed the broadcast as a way to attract some of the new arrivals.
Gordon’s on-air reputation, with an assist from friends who invited other expats to the Eucalyptus on Friday nights, began attracting a crowd to what soon became known as Gringo Night. Among those helping to promote the event were Lee Dubs who posted flyers at his Carolina Bookstore on Hermano Miguel, while Alan Stiles, a retired San Francisco architect, and David Morrill, a newspaper columnist, sent out emails.
By the middle of 2007, 40 to 50 expats were showing up regularly for Gringo Night and by the end of 2007 and early 2008, the crowd sometimes exceeded a hundred, a sizeable percentage of Cuenca’s estimated 700 to 800 English-speaking expats at the time.
After Cuenca was named the “world’s number one retirement destination” in late 2008 by several media outlets, the city’s expat population swelled to 4,000 on the way to the current estimated count of 10,000 to 12,000. Many of the glowing reports, from news sources such as ABC News, CNN, Conde Nast Traveler and International Living, included mention of Gringo Night and the Café Blues remote broadcast.
Gordon was excited by the opportunity at the Eucalyptus but it presented some challenges. “First, since I hadn’t broadcast outside of the studio before, there were the technical issues to overcome. And then, working in the middle of a lot of people posed other issues. But it was a lot of fun.”
Gordon’s living arrangement at the time proved ideal for the broadcasts. He and his partner Fu Yu Chang had an apartment on Av. 12 de Abril, across the Rio Tomebamba from the historic district. “I could walk to the Antena Uno studios on Heroes de Verdaloma –I did my shows live then– and Fu Yu could walk to her medical school classes at the University of Cuenca.”
The location also offered convenient access to another of Gordon’s passions, spending time with the children of the Tadeo Torres orphanage which, at the time, was located around the corner. “I have been volunteering there five days a week since 2005. Along with my family, Fu Yu and music, it is the center of my life,” he says.
In 2007, Gordon began hosting a second broadcast on Antena Uno, Noches de Jazz. As with Café Blues, he offered his commentary in English as well as Spanish, prompting several high school and university language teachers to make the program required listening for their classes.
Gordon had to give up his broadcasts when he moved to Bulán, north of Paute, in 2008. “When Fu Yu graduated from medical school, we both wanted a place in the country. Although I love Cuenca, I’m not a city guy. I lived on San Juan Island, a two-hour ferry ride from the Washington State mainland, for many years before returning to Ecuador to live.”
He adds: “Unfortunately, the move made it impractical to continue the shows since it would have required daily trips back and forth to Cuenca.”
Fast-forward 14 years. Times and technology have changed and Gordon returned to the Antena Uno airwaves with both of his shows in February. “My boss, Gustavo Cardoso, had always told me that when the time was right, I was welcome to return to broadcasting. Now, I can record the voice portions of the shows in Bulán and send the files to my engineer, Eduardo Brazales – I call him ‘El Genio’ — at Antena Uno. He puts them together with the music for the broadcasts.”
Gordon is thrilled to be back on the air after the long hiatus. “I’m happy to hear that, as before, both shows already have a lot of listeners. Both shows feature extraordinary artists, and not surprisingly, the stories behind the artists are extraordinary as well. I always tell people if you listen once, you’ll become a regular listener, and it’s true.”
Café Blues airs Wednesday and Friday at 8:30 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday at 6 p.m.. Noches de Jazz airs Tuesday at 8:30 p.m. and Sunday at 7:30 p.m. You can livestream the broadcasts or tune in on the radio at 90.5 FM.