Lupita Reyes

Lupita Reyes created Holland’s first Spanish-language radio show at WHTC-AM/FM’s studios on Central Avenue in Holland more than 57 years ago. On December 31, 2021, she’s retiring.

Reyes wanted a Spanish-language show to serve Holland’s growing Latino community and asked the station’s then-manager, Bill Gargano, to make it happen. After some back-and-forth — and Gargano’s requirement that she host the show, “Alegria Latina” hit the airwaves. Alegria means “happy” in Spanish.

Gargano, 97, remembers talking with Reyes about what to name the show.

“I said, ‘Let’s give it a name’ and I said, ‘How are you most of the time,’” he told WHTC. “She said, ‘I’m happy most of the time, so the name was her idea.”

The show has expanded from a bare half-hour Saturday show to a Sunday evening powerhouse with a cadre of co-hosts, airing from 7 p.m. to midnight Sundays on 927 The Van, WHTC’s sibling station. The show features Mariachi, Banda, Tejano, Balhata and Rancheras music, interviews, news and calls from listeners — listening online across the U.S. and a few Spanish-speaking countries.

“I leave Alegria Latina feeling proud of the program’s accomplishments, its contributions to the community and all the fans,” Reyes said.

Reyes’ remarkable life story includes being placed in a class with developmentally delayed students because she didn’t speak English, to earning advanced college degrees. Her leadership includes founding multiple organizations in Holland, leading the drive to create Latin Americans United for Progress in 1964, and the annual Fiesta; Community Action House in 1969; and Holland Community Health Center, in 1995, among other groups.

The Texas native, who moved to Holland with her parents in 1945, graduated from GVSU with a degree in social work, earned her master’s in social work from Western Michigan University; and another master’s in business administration and management, from Aquinas College. She rose to clinical supervisor for patients and family counseling at Holland Hospital before opening her own counseling business in 2013. Her multiple honors include the 2018 Hispanic Latino Commission of Michigan’s Top 50 women award.

Holland market manager Kevin Oswald, who runs both WHTC and 927 The Van, said Reyes’ last regular show is set for Dec. 12, 2021.

Oswald said he hopes Lu Reyes’ legacy — not just in radio, but in helping create multiple organizations in the greater Holland area — is celebrated, along with her birthday in the weeks ahead. Reyes will be 84 on November 30.

Oswald says the stations will air a retrospective of her work later this year.

Media organizations can contact Oswald at (616) 392-3121 or by email at kevin.oswald@mwcadvertising.com to coordinate setting up interviews or video of her last show. COVID-19 protocols will be observed at all times in the Juke Van Oss Building.

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