Spanish-Language Television

By: Teresa Palomo Acosta

Type: General Entry

Published: July 1, 1995

Spanish-language television started in the United States in 1955 when Raoúl Cortez opened KCOR-TV in San Antonio. The station, a fully equipped television production facility, shared a studio with KCOR-AM radio, which Cortez also founded as the first Spanish-language radio station in 1946. KCOR-TV was on the air daily from dawn to dusk, with Lalo Astol, a well-known Tejano actor who had also been involved with KCOR-AM radio, as a principal member of its production team. Astol wrote, performed in, and directed various KCOR-TV productions, such as "Teatro KCOR" and "Teatro Motorola." Like other performers in the 1950s, Astol broadcast live. The station also televised Mexican films that it rented from a local distributor.

About 1962 the Spanish International Network, the first national Spanish-language television system in the country, was also established in San Antonio, with KWEX-TV (formerly KCOR-TV) as its first station. Emilio Nicolás, Sr., station manager of KWEX, and René Anselmo, a broadcasting entrepreneur involved in Mexican television, helped set up the venture. Anselmo became president of SIN in 1963. He is considered the "father" of Spanish-language television in the United States despite Cortez's pioneering efforts as the first Mexican-American television station owner. Over the following years, SIN collaborated with the Spanish International Broadcasting Company and the Spanish International Communications Corporation to buy other stations in California and New Jersey. With its acquisition of a Florida station in 1970, SIN became a full-fledged network. In 1972 all the stations were merged into the Spanish International Broadcasting Company and Anselmo was named SICC president, while continuing to hold the presidency of SIN. Four years later, unhappy stockholders filed a lawsuit, alleging improprieties in company procedures and revenue handling. The suit was settled in 1987 with the sale of some SICC stations to the Hallmark Corporation and First Chicago Venture. An administrative-law judge ordered the action after concluding that René Anselmo was an agent for the interests of foreigners, the Azcárraga family of Mexico, who owned 20 percent of SICC. With this change in company ownership, SIN was renamed Univision. In 1992 Hallmark sold the network to an American-Venezuelan-Mexican consortium, which included Emilio Azcárraga, the Mexican billionaire whose involvement in American Spanish-language television was a factor in its sale to Hallmark in 1987.

Except for the innovative work of Cortez's KCOR-TV station in its early days, Spanish-language television in Texas has not often tailored its programs to fit the local interests of its varied Latino audience. Mexican Americans in Texas have been generally had the same program choices as Puerto Ricans in New York. The usual fare has consisted of novelas (soap operas) imported from Latin America, musical variety shows, and sports presentations. The most popular telecast has been "Sabado Gigante" ("Gigantic Saturday"), although the novelas have remained the favorite daily offering. Mexican-American leaders have criticized the medium's emphasis on amusement, its lack of public service, documentary, and dramatic programs, and its failure to design programs that appeal to Hispanics in the Southwest. The new owners of Univision have indicated that the network will continue to fill most of its air time with programs from Mexico and Venezuela. At the time of the 1992 sale of Univision, which American Hispanics criticized for its domination by foreign interests, approximately 50 percent of the network's broadcasts were foreign-produced and fifty percent were United States-produced.

Despite these problems, Spanish-language television has surpassed the mainstream American networks in covering Latin-American stories as well as Latino subjects in Texas and around the country. It has also produced a few nationally televised political programs, such as "Destino '80," which encouraged Hispanic participation in American politics. In addition, Univision has broadcast both the Democratic and Republican national conventions. The Telemundo network, which started in 1987, about thirty years after Spanish-language television was born in Texas, is Univision's closest competitor and has acquired affiliates in the state. Overall, Univision and Telemundo monopolize Spanish-language broadcasting in Texas and throughout the country. United States Hispanic owners of full-power television stations in Texas have been few. In 1990 Hispanics controlled stations in Corpus Christi, El Paso, Houston, and Laredo. Only these four stations were in Hispanic hands in 1992, although fifteen Spanish-language television stations were reported in the state for that year, all affiliated with Univision or Telemundo. Several stations in El Paso and Laredo received their programming from Mexican-based stations in Ciudad Juárez and Nuevo Laredo, respectively.

Hispanic Business, 1979–1992. Ana Veciana-Suárez, Hispanic Media, USA: A Narrative Guide to Print and Electronic Hispanic News Media in the United States (Washington: Media Institute, 1987).
  • Peoples
  • Mexican Americans
  • Journalism
  • Writers, Authors, Publications, and Literature
  • Literature

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

Teresa Palomo Acosta, “Spanish-Language Television,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed August 10, 2022,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

July 1, 1995

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