On Valentine’s Day in 1997, Julie Kent Rios went on a first date with the man she would marry six months later. Their connection was immediate. Later that week, he gave her a dolphin bracelet after she let it slip that she loved dolphins. And then he said: I love you.
“I thought, ‘This guy is crazy,’” she said in an interview last week.
But that was her husband, Eduardo Rios, a prominent figure in the Latino community because of his enduring 20-year presence on the airwaves. Eduardo died from complications with COVID-19 in September, one of several breakthrough cases in recent months. He was 52.
Her love and grief for Eduardo, who was known affectionately as ‘El Compa Lalo’ during his time as a disc jockey and broadcaster for Spanish radio stations Tricolor and Radio Lazer, are now being echoed across Reno’s Latino community. His fans and friends have paid tribute to his catchphrase, ‘Ah, babaro!,’ an expression of astonishment. They have emblazoned it on T-shirts to remember a lighthearted and comedic personality who “always opened the doors” to them.
The morning after Eduardo died, Julie Kent Rios had a visitor at her home.
“I just remember them coming up to my porch and they opened the door and they were crying,” she said through tears. “And they said, ‘He was my only friend.’ I thought, there’s probably so many of those people because he just made everybody feel … like you were his best friend.”
Hundreds of community members and several local Latino-owned businesses have come together during the last three weeks for a memorial ceremony and events meant to raise funds for Eduardo’s family, including one this weekend.
At a tardeada, or fundraising event, in late September, some community members shed tears as they reflected on his legacy as a leader who was the face of big celebrations, such as the annual Cinco de Mayo festivities, and who the community could trust to connect them to needed resources and information.
“People went to him for any question,” Claudia Castañeda, a community organizer, told The Nevada Independent in Spanish. “He was much more than a family resource center. He was like that 911, 211 that you would call and he always had a response, a recommendation of where to go. He supported us in absolutely everything. He never told us ‘No.’”
Before he fell ill with the virus, Eduardo had encouraged community members to practice COVID-19 precautions.
“He was always saying that people should get vaccinated, that people should use their face masks, that we were in a pandemic,” she said. “Even if there wasn’t a pandemic, he was always saying that we need to do something, not just stand by.”
His reminders were important for a community hit especially hard. Latinos, who make up 29 percent of Nevada’s population, continue to be overrepresented in COVID-19 cases, accounting for nearly 35 percent of infections. As for deaths, Latinos account for 22 percent in the state.
Read the full article: Reno Latinos mourn, celebrate long-time Spanish-speaking radio DJ ‘El Compa Lalo’
This portion of the article is shared as part of our collaboration with The Nevada Independent. This story was originally published on October 13, 2021, and written by Jazmin Orozco Rodriguez.