National Museum of American History Collaborates With Telemundo To Capture Rich Legacy of Spanish-Language Television in the U.S. and Puerto Rico
The Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History will add objects from Telemundo, one of the historic Spanish-language television networks in the U.S. whose roots go back to the 1950s, its local stations and employees to the national collections. The donation recognizes the contributions to U.S. Spanish-language broadcasting history from the network and its owned local stations: KVEA-TV, Los Angeles; WSCV-TV, Miami-Fort Lauderdale; WNJU-TV, New York; and Puerto Rico’s WKAQ-TV. Telemundo’s donation is part of the museum’s initiative, “Escuchame: the History of Spanish-language Broadcasting in the U.S.,” which grew out of the “American Enterprise” exhibition that opened in 2015 to chronicle the role of business from the mid-1700s to the present.
More than 40 Telemundo current and former employees contributed to the initiative either by participating in oral-history interviews about their role in Spanish-language broadcasting and/or by contributing to the collection of objects that reflect the material culture of broadcasting. Among the objects being donated are more than 30 press credentials reflecting Noticiero Telemundo anchor José Diaz-Balart’s journalism career; scripts, photographs, microphone cubes and a Florida Emmy Award that capture the work of Marilys Llanos, senior political reporter at Telemundo 51, WSCV-TV; a pair of painted tennis shoes illustrated with personal and career highlights from Telemundo 52 KVEA-TV anchor Dunia Elvir; and two costumes from Tanairi, one of the most famous telenovelas produced by Telemundo Puerto Rico, WKAQ-TV, which was one of the primary industry pioneers in the development of Spanish-language programming. The collection will also include promotional materials, employee ID badges, Telemundo branding guidelines and various materials showing the evolution of the network’s logo and photographs of staff, talent and images that show Telemundo support and participation in community events. The family of Telemundo 47 WNJU-TV journalist Hector Aguilar donated a suit coat, pocket squares and glasses to represent his on-air presence at the station and his life-long career in Spanish-language radio and TV.
“By documenting the contributions of Spanish-language broadcasters and how they influenced the national narrative, this collection and its companion oral histories will change the way the history of American television is written,” said Kathleen Franz, the museum’s curator of American business history and chair of the Division of Work and Industry.
“Telemundo has a deep and long-standing commitment to celebrate, promote and preserve Hispanic culture,” said Mónica Gil, EVP, Corporate Affairs, NBCUniversal Telemundo Enterprises. “Spanish-language television is a way of life for the Hispanic community. We are thrilled to partner with the Smithsonian to bring awareness to the important role it has played in American broadcast television history and to collaborate in this effort to capture our rich legacy for future generations.”
WKAQ-TV, founded by El Mundo newspaper owner Angel Ramos in San Juan, Puerto Rico, in 1954, is one of the most historically significant television stations in Puerto Rico and the U.S. The station’s program popularity in Puerto Rico and the need for increased Spanish-language communication in the U.S. encouraged investors to take a chance on building Spanish-language stations and networks. The Telemundo Network as it is known today began in 1987. Currently, Telemundo is owned by Comcast through NBCUniversal and is headquartered in Miami. Telemundo’s 18 owned television stations have built their reputation as trusted news sources in their communities. For this collaboration, the museum focused its collecting on television history with the local Telemundo stations as well as the network, with an emphasis on national and local news.
The donation ceremony also marks the addition of 38 audio interviews conducted with anchors, reporters, engineers, traffic directors, camera operators, art directors and sales and marketing staff to the museum’s archives. Diaz-Balart, Llanos and Allan Villafaña, morning anchor at WNJU-TV are among those who participated in the museum’s oral-history project.
The collection, particularly the oral histories that reside in the museum’s Archives Center, is accessible to scholars and researchers.
Through incomparable collections, rigorous research and dynamic public outreach, the National Museum of American History explores the infinite richness and complexity of American history. It helps people understand the past in order to make sense of the present and shape a more humane future. The museum is located on Constitution Avenue N.W., between 12th and 14th Streets, and is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. (closed Dec. 25). Admission is free. For more information, visit https://americanhistory.si.edu. For Smithsonian information, the public may call (202) 633-1000.