2020 Top Florida Latino Lideres Award Recipient
Mercedes Soler is a Latino Mover N’ Shaker from Sarasota, Florida.
Latin Times Magazine: Where are you and your family from? What is your Hispanic heritage? Mercedes Soler: I was born in Havana Cuba, My parents were both born in Cuba, two of my grandparents are Cuban, two are Spanish from Galicia and Las Palmas de Gran Canarias. My 2 children were born in Miami.
Latin Times Magazine: Tell us about what you do for a living and how you got into it
Mercedes Soler: I’ve been a Spanish broadcast journalist my entire career. (Univisión, CNN Español, El Nuevo Herald) With my husband, a lifelong radio executive, we launched Solmart Media 7 years ago. We now own 2FM and 1 AM radio stations based in Sarasota, Florida which cover 9 adjacent counties including St. Petersburg. We proudly format our stations Regional Mexicano.
Latin Times Magazine: In your industry, what would you say separates you from your competition
Mercedes Soler: My only interest throughout my entire 30+ career has always been to serve the Hispanic community, to represent them, and to give them a voice.
Latin Times Magazine: During Covid-19, tell us about your Biggest Challenge/obstacle and how you overcame it/or are overcoming it . Mercedes Soler: In the first few weeks, we asked half our team to work from home. Advertising sales went down. We worked harder than ever, changed our format to include much more coronavirus information, daily reports, and continued to evolve so that our on-air presence served the
needs of what our audience was experiencing.
Latin Times Magazine: Tell us about your biggest achievement, and how you achieved it (Covid or nonrelated)
Mercedes Soler: When the shelter in place order was put out, my husband and I decided to use our radio stations in full service of our community. We gave away over a month of free advertising to vendors and businesses that were open and wanted people to know about it, regardless of whether
they were Hispanic-owned or not. We went to a predominantly Hispanic Catholic church and told them we’d carry their mass every Sunday because we understood that we all needed spiritual connection. We did, and are still doing, daily coronavirus updates, that we’re sharing with a low power radio station in Immokalee, a farming community in Central Florida, so that
migrant workers could understand what was going on and make informed decisions about COVID. And finally, I created and produce a weekly show, that we’re still airing and podcasting, to help educate Hispanic parents about how to help teach their kids long distance. Many of our parents have large families, with 4 – 5 children of different ages in different grades which require separate devices and high-speed internet. On top of that, many aren’t English literate which makes homeschooling doubly hard. Serving them has become my purpose. And it’s given me the impetus to get to know many different people in this new city of mine, Sarasota. The show is called Por Nuestros Niños and can be found anywhere on Podcast Form.
Latin Times Magazine: What is next for you? What can people expect to see from you? Mercedes Soler: My husband and I would like to extend our reach to Tampa. So keep an eye out for us! I’m also serving on the Board of the Community Foundation of Sarasota and the Ringling Museum where I hope to also represent the interests of our local Hispanic communities.
Latin Times Magazine: What words of encouragement can you offer?
Mercedes Soler: I always end my interviews/shows by saying !ánimo! I’m a pragmatist but also live my life in the hope that everyone of us can make a difference in helping our neighbors and improving humanity.
Latin Times Magazine: Is there anything I didn’t ask that you would like to share?
Mercedes Soler: I want to thank our Hispanic Community for its strength during this time of pandemic, for meeting the challenges of becoming essential workers in many instances and I’d like to loudly denounce the fact that so many of our loved ones have died of coronavirus, about 40% of the
total toll of US victims are Latinos. We have a lot of work to do in helping lift Hispanics’ lives. It starts with education.
Latin Times Magazine: What is YOUR comida Latina favorita? Mercedes Soler: Frijoles negros Cuban style, Frijoles colorados with short ribs and chorizo !Qué rico!