Amid pandemic, radio station’s party van becomes lifeline for farmworkers in Central California

California
Ricardo “El Profe” Castorena, right, gives a farmworker masks to protect her from the coronavirus in the fields of Selma in 2020. Castorena plays music and delivers PPE to farmworkers with the help of a Radio Lazer 103.1 van. (Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)

Ricardo “El Profe” Castorena, right, gives a farmworker masks to protect her from the coronavirus in the fields of Selma in 2020. Castorena plays music and delivers PPE to farmworkers with the help of a Radio Lazer 103.1 van. (Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)

The van rattling down a field road stood out even in a cloud of dust, its paint job the colors of birthday cake frosting, Christmas tree lights, red-purple-yellow-blue confetti.

A party van helps when trying to reach farmworkers in dark pandemic times. But Ricardo Castorena, 47, found that out by accident. He’d only been trying to get free gas when he made the deal with the radio station.

In March, when the pandemic first closed bars and festivals, the sales manager of Radio Lazer KLUN-FM 103.1 feared the station would lose name recognition — a name announced in promos by a galloping telenovela voice backed with the sounds of a laser-gun battle.

He knew that Castorena went to the fields each day with his small nonprofit group, Binational of Central California, and that he had a witty, outgoing personality. The manager told Castorena, who was teaching Chicano and Latino studies at Fresno Pacific University, that if he would promote the station, it would provide the van and an unlimited gas card.

Read the full story on LATimes.com.

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