Latino radio programing did not exist in Yakima until the 1950s, unlike communities in the southwest and along the Mexican and U.S. border, where local Spanish language broadcasting was common or could be picked up on Mexican stations. In the 1940s, Latino music in the Yakima Valley was largely grounded in the oral tradition of popular Mexican “canciones” and “corridos.”
In 1950, Herminia Mendez, originally from Eagle Pass, Texas and a former Crewport resident, began broadcasting live on radio at KREW in Sunnyside. This ground-breaking, live 15-minute broadcast was the first commercial radio program of its kind in Yakima and the whole Pacific Northwest. Herminia Mendez, who had a self-learned and fast-paced broadcaster’s voice, rapidly extended the 15-minute program into a daily hour-long broadcast. She was a true local pioneer in Latino radio and media entertainment, broadcasting popular music, job announcements, and publicizing important social events and milestones to the growing masses of Yakima families. The advent of Spanish language radio programming on KREW, like the opening of El Ranchito, also served as a barometer of the market strength of the growing Latino communities in Yakima County. Mendez’ sponsors included many local businesses which catered to Latinos, including C. Speck Motors in Sunnyside, El Ranchito in Zillah, as well as large national corporations, such as the Olympia Beer Company, J.C. Penny, Safeway grocery, and Sears, Roebuck and Company.
Built in circa 1949, the building where KREW began is now a bakery specializing in Mexican baked goods. The KREW radio station operated from this building in the 1950s before going off the air. Another Spanish-language radio station, KDNA (91.9 FM), started broadcasting in the Yakima Valley in 1979, helping to revive the farm worker movement in Washington State. KDNA is still on the air, as of 2018.