The Advocacy of Daniel del Solar (1940-2012)

Curator's Note

Two years ago, leftist circles in public media both in the San Francisco Bay Area and Washington DC mourned the death of Daniel del Solar, a prolific Latino media activist. He was recognized as a habitual photographer, occasional videographer, a political poet, a devout public radio listener, and a fan of wearing loose-fitting Mexican-styled serapes. The Daniel del Solar collection at the Collection for Ethnic and Multicultural Archives (CEMA) at the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB) includes over 3,000 items donated from del Solar’s estate. The exhaustive preliminary finding guide includes audiotapes, short films, photographs, and more. Daniel del Solar began his media advocacy in the early 1970s in Berkeley, California’s legendary radio station KPFA. As a radio host and producer, he joined the-then Comunicación Aztlán Collective, a politicized group of radio activists at KPFA who saw their radio labor as part of the larger social movements of the time. The Collective privileged live, unedited, two-hour reports from those central to the United Farmworkers Union (UFW), Crusade for Justice, La Raza Unida Party, and Wounded Knee. In particular, the bilingual radio show, “Reflecciones de la Raza” (Reflections of the People), included call-ins, interviews, and music in an eclectic, Spanglish and, at times, poetic fashion; best characterized as a stream of culture and consciousness (aired from 1971-1974). For instance, in a program for Comunicación Aztlán Collective called Poetry, Chile, and La Raza Unida, del Solar, del Solar links the political strife in Chile, Nicaragua, and Cuba with those of Chicanos. The Collective began with a modest team of twelve yet only three were initially trained in radio production. This early radio experience motivated del Solar to a career devoted to diversifying the public airwaves. By the mid-1970s, del Solar would serve as National Director of Training and Development at the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) where he led programs designed to increase the number of women and minorities in public broadcasting. His dedication to tax-funded and listener-supported media followed him to KQED-TV where, as the Community Resources Coordinator, he oversaw “Open Studio,” an experimental program that offered the general public tools for media production. Soon after, he co-founded Tin Tan, a popular Chicano/Latino cultural publication in San Francisco. A true documentarian, del Solar is remembered for always carrying a camera around his neck and a tape recorder in his pocket.


Dolores, Thank you so much for sharing some of the important work that Daniel contributed not only to voice of the Latino community, but also to our global public memory of civic activism. del Solar's work is a reminder of how significant visual, aural, and sonic recordings can be in helping to shape the way future generations understand "what happened" in moments passed.

What an exciting find! I envy the researcher who really digs into this archive. Could it change our understanding of broadcast history? Possibilities like this, particularly the chance to upset conventional historical narratives, make me smile. Thanks so much for telling us about it.

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