Javier Mercado is the first to admit that, despite being born in Puerto Rico, Latin music genres like salsa and merengue were not part of his early life. After his family moved to Atlantic City, New Jersey, he gravitated toward “classic rock” and artists like Eric Clapton and Led Zeppelin when he was young.
It wasn’t until he was a freshman at Rutgers in 1971 that some Latino friends took him to a record store and introduced him to music with roots in his birthplace and other Hispanic and Latin communities. It was love at first listen for Mercado RC’75, SSW’77.
That love led Mercado to create Latin Impact, the first Latin music program on WRSU, Rutgers’ radio station. Mercado’s experience working for the station marked the beginning of his career as a producer of several radio programs.
“We did it bilingually, in English and Spanish, and we played all kinds of Latin music. We had people around New Brunswick and around New Jersey listening in, and the program got very popular,” Mercado says.
While Mercado was producing Latin Impact, he was also exploring different career paths. He wanted a job helping others, so he pursued a graduate degree in social work at Rutgers.
After getting his master’s degree, Mercado worked as an organizer for the Puerto Rican community in Atlantic City and led the Latin Organization of Atlantic City, which fought the removal of Puerto Ricans from their homes to make way for casino construction.
Mercado started to work with radio station WUSS 1490 AM in Atlantic City to spread awareness about the issue and other problems the Puerto Rican community faced. While reporting the news at the station, Mercado started playing Latin music on air for several hours.
“I did that for 10 years at WUSS radio,” Mercado says. “It was a great experience. The program became number one in the area for Latin music,” and the station’s signal was strong enough to reach North Jersey, Philadelphia, and New Brunswick.
Eventually, Mercado returned to Puerto Rico to help take care of his parents. He landed a job there with the Department of the Family, where he supervised a staff of social workers that dealt with child and senior citizen abuse. While his busy work schedule forced him to set radio work aside, listening to music was still a respite from his demanding job.
After retiring from social work about three years ago, he realized he was bored. “I’m looking at four walls and I said, ‘I can’t take this. I’m going to go nuts. I have to be doing something.’’’ The idea of producing an internet radio program intrigued him and led him to produce another iteration of Latin Impact (Impacto Latino). The program is a mix of Christian music, salsa, merengue, balada, and Latin rock, and can be streamed Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at www.mixcloud.com/live/jmercador/.
“I’ve had people tune in from Texas, Mexico, Germany, Russia, New England, England,” Mercado says. He is grateful for his Rutgers buddies who turned him on to salsa and Latin music, which led him to a life filled with music and sharing it with others. No matter what form radio takes, he says, “I love radio. I always loved it and will do it until I can do it no longer.”
Javier Mercado’s Top 10 Latin Songs
- Nada De Tí by Eddie Palmieri
- Coro Miyare by Fania All-Stars
- El Todopoderoso by Hector LaVoe
- Ghana’e’ by Willie Colón and Hector LaVoe
- Traicón by Roberto Roena Y Su Apollo Sound
- Vengo Sabroso by Conjunto Libre
- Indestructible by Ray Barretto
- Sonido Bestial by Richie Ray and Bobby Cruz
- Ritmo De Joe Cuba by Joe Cuba Sextette
- Anacaona by Cheo Feliciano