He's not just all talk

Controversy is catch of the day on Radio Kafe with Monsanto

by Denise Arellano

News Reporter

He greeted me warmly and motioned to sit down at the informal dining room table near the kitchen. His unbuttoned sky-blue dress shirt with duck-yellow tie was pulled open. He was obviously relaxing after a long day at work. He offered me a can of pop, and helped himself to orange juice and chips.

Professor Carlos Monsanto, who is blind, has been teaching with the Modern and Classical Languages Department since 1969. He doesn't belong to any faculty organizations because he works outside the campus to supplement his salary.

"I don't have time, and besides, I'm not lucky enough to be chosen for such things. I suffer, thank God, from having the qualities needed to be a great administrator: good eyesight, good hearing, tremendous patience and abundant diplomacy," he said jokingly.

One such off-campus activity is a three-minute radio commentary segment that airs at 12:45 p.m. Monday through Friday on Radio Kafe, KFCC 1270 AM.

Channel 48 news anchor Luis Cruz runs the radio's Spanish news program, which began last April, and invited Monsanto to participate in May. The segment is broadcast via telephone. When asked if he was satisfied with Monsanto's work, Cruz said, "His commentary is very accurate."

The Guatemalan professor provides a personal interpretation of news events that affect the Latino community.

Monsanto said, "I wouldn't say I am a little controversial: I am very controversial. A commentator must pique and provoke his audience."

His political, social and cultural criticisms could be seen as offensive, yet Cruz said the station has never received any complaints.

Monsanto has spoken out against the incorrect usage of the word "Indian" to mean "savage," as found in a Microsoft Word application thesaurus. He has also spoken out against what he describes as the widespread Latin American mentality that negates, defames and belittles its indigenous roots and idolizes its European heritage.

The radio commentator criticized the appointment of Vidal Martinez as the new Port Authority because, as a UH Board of Directors member, Martinez didn't take on the role of a Hispanic leader, nor did he demonstrate interest in issues that affect Hispanics on campus.

"At times I'm a bit rude," said Monsanto. "What I said is that the political machine that put Martinez in power was starting to squeak, and that it needed to be lubricated with new blood. Martinez is not new blood. He became Port Authority the same way Betti Maldonado did. He is a lobbyist, and lobbyists take part in institutionalized bribery."

When I asked him if he speaks as a representative of the university, Monsanto replied that as a faculty member he always does, but his commentary segment is delivered from the viewpoint of a private member of the community.

"I've asked Cruz to desist from announcing me as 'Doctor' Monsanto," he said. "The title is an obstacle between myself and my public. It separates me from them and creates a different slant to my segment."

Monsanto's radio beginnings took place when he was a child actor for a radio soap opera in Guatemala.

"I really caused a stir. I had a brilliant future as an actor and a singer," he said. "I have a powerful voice. A professor often has to be an actor. Teaching is a performance. But in acting, as with teaching, your freedom of expression is controlled. That's one of the reasons why I don't get involved in college politics; I don't want to take sides and limit my freedom."

The UH radio personality is planning to expand his efforts. Currently he is seeking a patron who could finance a weekly hour-long show that focuses on how literature reflects the daily struggles of an average person. He will not focus on critical literary analysis; rather, aspiring authors are invited to call in with their prose and poetry.

He said he hopes to reach a public that rarely expands its horizons through literature. He added that most Hispanic immigrants who come to the United States cannot relinquish valuable money-earning time and efforts to reading and learning.

"I hope to break the established molds the media offer commentators," Monsanto said. "I don't want to have another radio talk show and become another Geraldo or Cristina. I want to do something different, something I haven't heard nor seen before."

Last Modified: 8-17-96    © 1996 The Daily Cougar

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