Border Blasters: a little XER, XERF nostalgia

Over the years during several QSOs I have been told by the OM that they used to listen to a radio station from Del Rio at night that could be heard all over North America which was actually XER, later XERF and now XHRF located in Ciudad Acuña, Coahuila, Mexico.

Commonly referred to as border blasters, these stations were licensed by the Mexican government as commercial radio stations that transmitted at very high power to the United States from various Mexican cities near the US/Mexico border. Licensed by Mexico’s Ministry of Communications and Transport (SCT), the border blasters used transmitters with an output far in excess of those licensed commercial stations in the United States.

– XER:   50,000 watts.  August 18, 1932 – February 24, 1933
“Sunshine Station between the Nations” broadcasting on AM at 735 Kcs. This was the original station licensed to Dr. John R. Brinkley in Mexico which first signed on August 18, 1932 with a 50 kW transmitter and claimed 75 kW erp (effective radiated power) via an omni-directional antenna. The engineer was Will Branch of Fort Worth, Texas. The station was shut down by the Mexican authorities on February 24, 1933 and the Villa Acuña Broadcasting Company was dissolved.
– XERA: 50, 000 watts  (claimed an antenna gain power of 1 million watts.)  September 1935 – December 1939
In September 1935, which was twenty months after XER was forced off the air, Dr. Brinkley gained a new license for Villa Acuña (known today at Ciudad Acuna)  from the Government of Mexico with new call letters of XERA. The station came on the air from the same location as the old XER but with a directional antenna. The new transmitter power was 50 Kw., but with a new antenna system Brinkley claimed an output of 1 megawatt (one million watts).   XERA called itself “the world’s most powerful broadcasting station” and Variety magazine claimed that it could be heard in New York City. Following the signing of various treaties with the United States the Government of Mexico revoked the license of XERA in the closing days of 1939.
– XERF-AM:  1570 KHz 250 KW   1947-
The station that made Wolfman Jack world famous for his disc jockey and sales presentations between 1962 and 1964. This station came on the air long after the era of both XERA and Dr. Brinkley, but it initially used the old XER/XERA facilities at Villa Acuna.  The original powerful transmitter of XERA had been dismantled and shipped elsewhere prior to XERF being built. The station later moved to a new building where a 250-kilowatt RCA main transmitter was installed. The station came on the air with a power of 100 kW. For many years the station made money by selling its time after nightfall to American evangelists who broadcast in English to the United States.
Read about the founder of XER Dr. John Romulus Brinkley at
At the Modesto Radio Museum website

1931

The XERF stands out as one of the oldest stations in the country. The concession to operate the XER is granted to the Radio Difusora de Acuña Company, S.A. July 30th. Illegally invading the radio space, its real owner, the American doctor John R. Brinkley, directs the signal of the station to the United States, in order to promote the medical services offered by its clinic, located in Ciudad Acuña, and to put in selling a series of curative products. Due to its location characteristics, signal strength (75,000 watts), the target market, the form of financing and the origin and intentions of its owner, the XER is considered as an international commercial transmitter.

1932

On October 21, the most powerful station on the continent officially opens in Villa Acuña: the XER with permission to operate at 665 kHz (although it actually transmits at 735 kHz frequency). The station begins its broadcasts at night and becomes the only radio station in the country with nightly programming.
For September 12, the approval of an increase in power to 500,000 watts appears in the Official Gazette of the Federation.

1940

LaXERA changes frequency from 960 kHz to 800 kHz. Due to the irregularities with which it operates, the XERA represents a serious problem for the governments of the United States and Mexico: besides deceiving its audience offering products and miraculous cures ; violates current laws, evading taxes and disseminating alleged Nazi propaganda. The Mexican government decides to remove it from the air.

1941

By presidential decree, on July 16, the expropriation of the XERA is promulgated in the Official Gazette.

1946

In March the station was reopened, granting the concession to the Radiodifusora Company of Coahuila, S.A. The transmission plant was located at its current location, at kilometer 10 of the Ciudad Acuña-Presa de la Amistad highway. During this second stage, the XERF takes advantage of its nature as an international free channel to continue transmitting at 250 thousand watts of power. This coverage allows him to cover a wide extension of the American territory, reason why it diffuses preferably country music and programs of religious type in English.

1947

Part of the electronic equipment of what was XERA, is used by XEX in Mexico City. XERF subsequently appeared and there was a rebirth at the border with other stations, which resulted in new disagreements.

1983

Due to its geographical location, the magnitude of its facilities and because it is a clear free channel (Class 1-A / A), the Mexican government considers it of strategic interest to incorporate the XERF. By virtue of the foregoing, since its creation in 1983, the IMER initiates the steps to acquire it. In February of 1986, the Institute buys the fixed assets of the Radiodifusora Company of Coahuila. The operation is finalized a year later, when the corresponding deeds are signed. The rights of the concession were transferred to the IMER free of charge.

This is about where the station last had any US origin programming broadcast on it’s transmitters. There were an attempt or two to get U.S. programmimg back on the station but they were short lived at best.
XERF recently changed their call sign to XHRF now running 100KW transmitter. The news media in Del Rio isn’t very “active” I listen to XHRF daily for local Acuña – Del Rio and regional news.
Paul Kallinger, long time DJ – announcer passed away Tuesday, May 29, 2001 in San Antonio, TX.
Arturo Gonzalez who was the liaison between U.S. interests wanting to use XERF and Mecian officials for many years died on December 21, 2012 at age 104.