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Reportajes locales y estatales en español de WKAR.

After Overcoming Health Challenges, 'El Chayo' Cervantes Returns To WKAR’s Airwaves

In this screenshot from WKAR's October 2017 digital special, El Chayo speaks into the microphone during a recording of Ondas.

After a nearly year long hiatus, a cornerstone of WKAR’s lineup, and the only Spanish-language program broadcasting from Michigan’s capital region returns to airwaves. WKAR’s Karel Vega spoke with Tony ‘El Chayo’ Cervantes about the return of Ondas en Español this weekend.

Premiering in 1968 as Variedades en Español before settling on the name Ondas en Español six years later, Tony ‘El Chayo’ Cervantes has been there from the beginning.


“I remember when I first came to WKAR I was told you can play any music you like." Said Chayo. "Tejano, or Mexican music or tropical. As long as you played [a] variety of music.


Now, over three decades after El Chayo took over as the voice of Ondas, Many of the old record companies have disappeared. But thanks to the large variety of music he’s archived over the years, El Chayo makes due.


“And so I’ve had to kinda like hang on to what we had. Which mainly is Tejano. Most of our listeners are Tejano music lovers. But then of course we also have the people that like Norteño and mariachi, and tropical of course." Said Chayo.

To the non-Spanish speakers listening, you may be wondering What does Ondas mean? To celebrate thirty of years of hosting Ondas, El Chayo’s work was highlighted last year in a WKAR digital special where he explained the origins of the name.

"Ondas means waves. Like waves in the river the waves in the ocean, the waves in the Lake." Chayo explained. "But, we’re talking radio, we’re talking music. So Ondas is musical waves."

Unfortunately, not long after the filming of El Chayo’s special last year, health complications forced him to take a break from the program.

“First weekend of September, instead of coming to the show I wind up in the hospital. And I found that I was very sick.” Chayo said.

El Chayo ended up in the ER, where he was first put into dialisis. Days later, more complications arose, leading to the need for surgery.

“And so they told my wife, ‘we have to amputate the toes.’ And then they said the next day ‘we’re gonna have to do the ankle,’ by the time I was in surgery two, three days later, they had to amputate just below the knee.”

Now, almost a year later, Chayo is back behind the board. With the same energy and passion for playing music as before.

“But I do very well with my wheelchair, you can see that." Chayo said, as he showed off his new means of transportation. "And so here I am, taking off again for the second time. I’m very very happy and glad that my health is back. And I’m glad to be back with my audience.”

Peter Whorf is WKAR’s Radio Station Manager.

“To me Chayo and Ondas en Español are supreme examples of what community service means.” Whorf said. “Chayo has been doing this at the highest level for 30 years. Providing music, culture and news to the Spanish language speaking community. To me he stands out as a true public servant.”

Credit Reginald Hardwick / WKAR-MSU
Left to right: WKAR Radio Station Manager Peter Whorf, WKAR's Karel Vega, El Chayo Cervantes, and former Lansing mayor Tony Benavides; following the proclamation of "Dia de Ondas en Español in Lansing" during the 2018 Cristo Rey Fiesta.

Public service that has not gone unrecognized by the community. During the 2018 Cristo Rey Fiesta, El Chayo and WKAR were presented with a special proclamation from the city of Lansing, declaring May 28, 2018 as “Dia de Ondas en Español” in the city.

As far as what lies ahead for Ondas en Enspañol, rest assured Chayo will be behind the microphone.


“The future, I cannot tell you what it’s gonna be, but I’m gonna be here as long as God permits." Chayo said. "Like I always say in Spanish, ‘si Dios me presta vida y salud, que voluntad no me falta.’”



In English, if God grants me life and health, my will - will not falter.


Hear ‘Ondas En Español’ Saturdays and Sundays from 8 to 10 am and 6 to 8pm on WKAR Newstalk 105.1 FM and AM 870.



Karel Vega served as radio news managing editor at WKAR from 2020 to 2023.
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