“He was a creative mind,” his colleague and co-host Alvaro Méndez said. “Loved music and films. He was most passionate when he was behind the mic.”
In every show broadcast on Facebook Live, Melgar would begin by acknowledging people listening, responding to questions and comments from followers and sending birthday wishes. Then he would turn to hours of discussion about politics in El Salvador and the country’s millennial President Nayib Bukele.
Melgar began his career as a sound engineer during a tumultuous political time in El Salvador. As a young man he traveled the country with an entourage of musicians, going from one town carnival to another, even at the peak of the decade-long civil war in the 1980s.
“He wanted to bring happiness to the most remote towns of the country during a time when it was super dangerous. They had to travel with large signs identifying themselves as musicians,” his younger brother Marvin Melgar recalls.
Herbert Melgar worked with such iconic Salvadoran bands including Orquesta Guanabambú, Espíritu Libre and La Raza Band. In the 1990s, musical events brought him to the Washington area, where he stayed in search of economic opportunity, friends said. He joined one of the largest Salvadoran communities outside El Salvador. He lived in the Washington area for nearly 25 years, most recently in Prince George’s County, Méndez said.
Melgar also founded Imperio Radio, another passion project that he tended to around his Salvavisión gig and his full-time job designing advertising spots for local Latino businesses. Along with Méndez, he promoted musical and cultural events within the largely Salvadoran community of Washington and helped organized Latino festivals, including the Festival Guanaco every fall in Hyattsville.
His connections with the music scene in El Salvador were instrumental in facilitating the visits of popular Salvadoran bands to the area, Méndez said.
He was known for spending hours watching old movies and loved Star Wars.
On the talk show, Melgar was a strong critic of Bukele, most recently blasting him for enforcing a strict quarantine during the covid-19 pandemic, which Melgar said had left many poor Salvadorans stuck at home without food.
“That guy has never picked a shovel,” he said in a recent broadcast. “He only knows to give orders.”
In his last few shows, Melgar, along with Méndez, used the Salvavisión platform to discuss the disproportionate impact the coronavirus pandemic was having on immigrant workers in the Washington region and to urge listeners to stay home during the pandemic. The videos reached as many as 70,000 people in the Washington region and beyond, Méndez said.
“The only place where we can be now is where the family is,” Melgar said on the air in April, before he fell ill with the coronavirus. “If you are in quarantine I hope you are having a good time. If you are quarantining with your family, well, enjoy your children and other relatives.”
He had planned to return to El Salvador, his brother Marvin Melgar said. His wife and two adult children live there.