Spanish Language Television

Raoul A. Cortez

Typewriter, about 1937

Typewriter, about 1937

Raoul A. Cortez, broadcasting pioneer, got his start in media behind this typewriter, as a reporter for the Spanish-language newspaper, La Prensa. He advocated for the civil rights of Mexican Americans in his roles as reporter, broadcaster, and as president of the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC). His radio station, KCOR 1350 in San Antonio, Texas, used the signature line La Voz Mexicana, the Voice of Mexican Americans.

Raoul A. Cortez, 1940s

Raoul A. Cortez, 1940s

A community advocate, Cortez served in various leadership roles with the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), which fought for the civil rights of Mexican Americans. He served as district director for San Antonio and led the organization for two consecutive terms as president in 1948 and 1949.

KCOR Press Release on School Desegregation

KCOR Press Release on School Desegregation

Raoul Cortez issued this newsflash from his radio station, KCOR 1350, telling listeners that federal judge Ben Herbert Rice Jr. had ended the segregation of Mexican American children in Texas schools. Cortez celebrated the news giving Mexican Americans equal access to education and the American dream.

Raoul Cortez, seated, and employees of KCOR Radio, about 1949.

Raoul Cortez, seated, and employees of KCOR Radio, about 1949.

Helping Communities

Helping Communities

Although resources were limited, Raoul Cortez, left, was committed to helping the wider community of citizens in South Texas, including raising money to aid victims of the 1954 floods in the Rio Grande Valley

The Radio Era

KCOR Radio Microphone, early 1950s

KCOR Radio Microphone, early 1950s

Conjunto Felix Borrayo at KCOR, 1948

Conjunto Felix Borrayo at KCOR, 1948

Musicians Flex Borrayo, Frank Corrales, and Luis Martinez entertained listeners of KCOR radio every day during lunchtime from 12:30 to 1:00PM. Conjunto music, a group or ensemble that blended styles from Texas and Mexico, usually featured two harmonizing voices, an accordion, base, and other instruments. Tejano conjuntos often sang in cantinas and on the streets, playing for whomever might pay for a song. Radio shows gave them steady work, a wider audience, and could lead to record deals.

Courtesy of UTSA Photo Collections

Renowned Entertainer Leonardo “Lalo” Garcia Astol, 1950s

Renowned Entertainer Leonardo “Lalo” Garcia Astol, 1950s

Astol began his career in live theater and moved easily into radio and television. The Tejano performer worked as an announcer and director at KCOR, and created programming such as “La Hora del Teatro Nacional,” a variety show, and radio novellas, or dramas, for the station. These programs mixed forms of entertainment from mass media with those popular among Mexican American audiences and built a market for the station.

Comedian Bob Hope on KCOR, 1950s

Comedian Bob Hope on KCOR, 1950s

In this spontaneous photo, Hope teased Raoul Cortez will at the mic in San Antonio, Texas. San Antonio’s military bases brought many USO performers to the city.

The Television Era

Aztec Mask, 1955

Aztec Mask, 1955

The bold, modernist Aztec mask became the unique face of KCOR broadcasting on its new building in San Antonio, Texas in 1955. It announced to employees and passersby that KCOR, and later, KWEX, had roots deep in the Mexican American community

Station Groundbreaking, 1954

Station Groundbreaking, 1954

The KCOR antenna became a landmark, one of the tallest and most visible structures in downtown San Antonio.

Constructing the KCOR-TV Antenna, 1954-55

Constructing the KCOR-TV Antenna, 1954-55

The KCOR antenna became a landmark, one of the tallest and most visible structures in downtown San Antonio.

“Hoy Mismo!”

“Hoy Mismo!”

Raoul Cortez let audiences know that his new TV station broadcast programming today and every day from 7:00 to 10:00PM on the upper end of their television dial at channel 41. The Federal Communication Commission assigned new stations spots on UHF (Ultra High Frequency) that required a converter box to access these channels. This posed a challenge for Cortez and others because viewers had to purchase a converter. Cortez requested a lower VHF station but was denied by the FCC. His successors at KWEX-TV, including his son-in-law Emilio Nicolas Sr., would successfully lobby for these converters to be included in all television sets.

“Hay los watch-o, les dice Camacho!”

“Hay los watch-o, les dice Camacho!”

Cesar Camacho wore many hats in Spanish-language broadcasting, beginning as a radio actor in novelas, or dramas, and eventually hosting multiple shows. He created a range of characters, from Don Tacho, host of a children’s program, to Papa Caliente reading jokes on a humor show. Other radio shows included Necesito Ayuda where Camacho assisted community members in finding jobs. Admiring fans sent hundreds of letters to the KCOR radio station expressing their appreciation.

Family Business, 1955

Family Business, 1955

Raoul Cortez at his desk with his grandchildren, Miriam Nicolas (left) and Emilio Nicolas Jr. (right).

Building a National Network

KWEX Camera and Remote Box, 1970s

KWEX Camera and Remote Box, 1970s

Cameraman and reporter Andreas Morin used this portable camera and remote box to record stories on location in and around San Antonio, Texas. KCOR-TV became KWEX with the sale of the station to Emilio Nicolas Sr., Raoul Cortez’s son-in-law, and a group of investors in 1961. Although it would become the center of operations for the Spanish International Network (SIN), the station remained committed to community-oriented programming. That meant capturing stories on location and broadcasting local events.

Andreas Morin, KWEX Reporter and Cameraman, 1970s

Andreas Morin, KWEX Reporter and Cameraman, 1970s

Morin had a long and varied career as a reporter, cameraman, and weatherman at KWEX as the station became part of the larger Spanish International Network. As a reporter he interviewed politicians from city council members to George W. Bush.

Courtesy of UTSA Photo Collections

 

Emilio Nicolas Sr.

Emilio Nicolas Sr.

Emilio Nicolas Sr. and a group of investors, including Mexican media mogul Emilio Azcàrraga Vidaurreta and Rene Anselmo, bought KCOR from Raoul Cortez in 1961. Nicolas helped build the fledgling network as the president and general manager of KWEX TV, which became the center of operations for the Spanish International Network (SIN) in 1976.

KWEX logo, about 1960

KWEX logo, about 1960

The Fourth Network

The Fourth Network

The Spanish International Network (SIN) made a bold claim in this advertisement from Variety, 1976. They challenged the existing big three networks, NBC, CBS and ABC. The ad encouraged local stations to join the network as extended market affiliates and noted that “serving your Spanish speaking community is an important and appreciated public service. It can be profitable, too.”

Promoting SIN

Promoting SIN

Emilio Nicolas Sr. (far right) with Rene Anselmo (left) of the Spanish International Network (SIN) and Rafael Conill of Conill Advertising, one of the leading Latino-owned advertising firms of the time. Television broadcasting depended heavily on advertising, and Nicolas and Anselmo worked with advertisers to promote the growing network.

National Advertising, Local Talent

National Advertising, Local Talent

One of the challenges of building a network was finding advertisers to pay for airtime. KWEX filmed commercials for local and national advertisers, such as Coca-Cola, using local talent who spoke Spanish.

Courtesy of UTSA Photo Collections

Postcard, about 1976

Postcard, about 1976

In 1976, the Spanish International Network introduced satellites as a new way connect stations and to deliver programming.