Raoul A. Cortez was a Mexican-American media executive and civil rights activist who founded the first full-time Spanish-language radio and television stations in the contiguous United States. He died in 1971, but his legacy lives on in the Latino community and the broadcasting industry. In this article, we will explore his life, career, death, and achievements, as well as debunk some rumors and remember his impact.
The Life and Career of Raoul A. Cortez
Raoul A. Cortez was born in 1905 in Xalapa, Veracruz, Mexico, one of nine siblings. His father owned a radio station in Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulipas, Mexico. As a young man, Cortez sold eggs on the streets to earn money for airtime on local radio stations, where he would produce a variety of shows in Spanish and sell advertising.
In the 1910s, the family emigrated to the United States, soon after the start of the Mexican Revolution. Cortez eventually settled in San Antonio, Texas, where he took on a number of different jobs, such as dressing windows for Penner’s men’s store and working as a sales representative for Pearl Brewery. He got his start in media working as a reporter for La Prensa, a San Antonio–based Spanish-language daily newspaper. He later began buying airtime on KMAC radio producing Spanish songs, comedic acts and sketches.
Cortez soon came to the conclusion that a new, full-time Spanish-language radio station was needed. He wanted to be able to broadcast Spanish-language programming all day, every day and night. However, during World War II, the U.S. Federal Communications Commission ( FCC) had suspended the attribution of broadcasting licenses for new radio or TV stations, out of fear that non-English programming could be spreading anti-American propaganda. Once the war was over, the FCC was able to give out licenses again, and Cortez was among the first in line.
In 1944, Cortez applied for a license to open his own radio station. To get around wartime restrictions on foreign language media, he stated that part of the station’s purpose was to mobilize the Mexican-American community behind the war effort. The license was granted to him, and he eventually opened KCOR 1350 AM in San Antonio in 1946, the first all Spanish-language radio station owned and operated by a Hispanic, using the signature line “La Voz Mexicana, the Voice of Mexican Americans.”
The success of his radio show led to Cortez adding television to his broadcasting operation, becoming the first Latino-run American TV station in Spanish. In 1955, he launched KCOR-TV, which later became KWEX-TV, the first affiliate of the Spanish International Network, now known as Univision.
The Mysterious Death and Health Issues of Raoul A. Cortez
His illness and health concerns
Cortez was not only a media pioneer, but also a civil rights advocate for Latinos in the U.S. throughout his life. He oversaw the court case Delgado v. Bastrop Independent School District, which ended the segregation of Mexican Americans in Texas public schools. He also founded the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) Council No. 16, the Mexican American Business and Professional Association, and the Mexican American Chamber of Commerce.
However, his busy and stressful life took a toll on his health. He suffered from diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart problems. He had several heart attacks and strokes, which affected his speech and mobility. He had to undergo several surgeries and treatments, and spent a lot of time in hospitals and clinics.
His sudden and mysterious death
On December 17, 1971, Cortez passed away at the age of 66. His death was sudden and unexpected, as he had been recovering from a heart attack and seemed to be in good spirits. He had even attended a Christmas party the night before, where he had danced and joked with his friends and family.
The cause of his death was never officially confirmed, but some sources suggest that he died of a cerebral hemorrhage, a bleeding in the brain. His funeral was attended by thousands of people, who paid their respects to the man who had given them a voice and a platform. He was buried at San Fernando Cemetery No. 2 in San Antonio.
The Legacy and Accolades of Raoul A. Cortez
His contributions to Latino media
Cortez was a visionary and a trailblazer in the field of Latino media. He recognized the need and the potential of Spanish-language broadcasting in the U.S., and he created a network of radio and TV stations that catered to the diverse and growing Latino population. He also hired and trained many Latino journalists, producers, and performers, who went on to have successful careers in the industry.
His stations provided not only entertainment, but also information, education, and advocacy for the Latino community. He covered topics such as immigration, politics, culture, health, and sports, and he gave a voice to the issues and concerns of Latinos in the U.S. He also promoted Latino culture and heritage, and showcased the talents and achievements of Latino artists and celebrities.
His impact on the industry
Cortez was a pioneer and a leader in the broadcasting industry. He was the first Latino to own and operate a radio and TV station in the U.S., and he was instrumental in the development and expansion of the Spanish-language media market. He also influenced the policies and regulations of the FCC, and advocated for more representation and diversity in the media. He was a member of the National Association of Broadcasters, the Texas Association of Broadcasters, and the San Antonio Broadcasters Association.
He received many awards and honors for his work, such as the media excellence award from the National Association of Broadcasters, the distinguished service award from the Texas Association of Broadcasters, and the gold medal from the San Antonio Broadcasters Association. He was also inducted into the Texas Radio Hall of Fame, the Texas Media Hall of Fame, and the National Association of Hispanic Journalists Hall of Fame.
Debunking Rumors and Remembering Raoul A. Cortez
Debunking rumors surrounding his death
Despite his death being widely reported and mourned, some rumors and conspiracy theories have emerged over the years, claiming that Cortez is still alive or that he was killed by someone. Some of these rumors are based on the fact that his death was sudden and mysterious, and that his body was never autopsied or publicly displayed. Some also suggest that he faked his death to escape his enemies or debts, or that he was assassinated by a rival broadcaster or a political opponent.
However, there is no evidence or proof to support any of these claims, and they are dismissed by his family, friends, and colleagues, who witnessed his death and funeral. They also point out that Cortez had no reason to fake his death or fear for his life, as he was a respected and successful businessman and activist, who had many supporters and allies. They also note that he had a strong faith and a sense of duty, and that he would never abandon his family or his community.
Remembering his family and journey
Cortez was married to Genoveva Valdés Cortez, who was his partner and collaborator in his media ventures. They had three children: Raoul Jr., Carlos, and Sylvia. They also had several grandchildren and great-grandchildren, who continue to honor his legacy and carry on his work.
Cortez was a self-made man, who came from humble beginnings and achieved great success. He was a proud Mexican-American, who embraced his dual identity and culture. He was a passionate and charismatic person, who loved his family, his friends, and his community. He was a visionary and a trailblazer, who made history and changed the world.
The impact he continues to have on the industry today
Cortez’s legacy is still alive and relevant today, as his stations and programs are still on the air, reaching millions of Latino viewers and listeners across the U.S. and beyond. His stations are now part of the Univision network, the largest Spanish-language media company in the U.S., which has grown and diversified over the years, offering news, entertainment, sports, and digital content.
His influence and inspiration are also felt by many Latino media professionals and personalities, who follow his footsteps and his example. He is considered the father of Latino media, and a role model and mentor for many.
Raoul A. Cortez was a Mexican-American media mogul and civil rights activist who made history and changed the world. He founded the first full-time Spanish-language radio and TV stations in the U.S., and he created a network of media outlets that served and empowered the Latino community. He also fought for social justice and equality for Latinos in the U.S., and he inspired and mentored many Latino media professionals and personalities. He died in 1971, but his legacy lives on in the Latino media industry and the Latino culture. He is remembered as the father of Latino media, and a role model and a hero for many.