Cantú, José (ca. 1914–1952)

By: Carlos M. Larralde

Type: Biography

Published: December 1, 1994

Updated: July 28, 2020

José Cantú, radio broadcaster, had a popular weekly evening musical show on KBOR in Brownsville known as the "Programa Popular" that aired from 1946 to 1952. Mexican singers and such local talented Tejanos as Ermilo Montemayor made the show a major success. Cantu's wit and political criticism during intermissions expressed the frustrations of Hispanics along the lower Rio Grande. He lampooned corrupt politicians and unscrupulous businessmen, hired investigators to examine consumer fraud and City Hall graft in numerous towns, and made powerful enemies. Still, Carnation Dairy Products, Royal Crown Hair Dressing, and other well-known companies sponsored the program. In time, Cantú became a major spokesman for local Mexican Americans in the battle for equality of opportunity and against prejudice. His program became so popular that sometimes it went on for an extra hour before saying on the air to his wife, "Jesusita, keep the pots warm. I will be there soon for supper." Eventually, his enemies asked Minor Wilson, manager of KBOR, to ban him from radio work. Nevertheless, Cantú continued to denounce those "who exploit the community." On June 7, 1952, he crashed into a tree outside Brownsville and was instantly killed; it was rumored that his brakes had been sabotaged. On June 7, 1952, Brownsville was overwhelmed by Cantu's funeral, where honors were bestowed on "a friend of those in poverty."

Brownsville Herald, June 11, 1952.

  • Journalism
  • Radio and Television
  • Peoples
  • Mexican Americans

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

Carlos M. Larralde, “Cantú, José,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed July 05, 2022,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

December 1, 1994
July 28, 2020

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