Many readers have shown keen interest in the age of American media pioneer, broadcaster, Raoul A. Cortez if he was still alive.
Raoul Alfonso Cortez was born on October 17, 1905, and died on December 17, 1971. He was a Mexican-American media executive best remembered for founding KCOR, the first full-time Spanish radio and television network in the United States, in 1946.
Who is 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, 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 hours in which he sold 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.
Career of Raoul Cortez
He got his start in media by working as a reporter for La Prensa, a San Antonio-based Spanish-language daily newspaper. His aim was to earn money to buy air time on local radio station KMAC, produce his own Spanish-language variety hour, and sell the advertising time for his shows.
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.
However, during World War II, the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) suspended the attribution of broadcasting licences 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.
At that time, radio stations east of the Mississippi River had to start their four-letter identification codes with ‘W’, and stations west of the Mississippi with ‘K’. The following three letters came from Cortez’s surname, making KCOR. Being on an AM frequency meant the station had a wide reach. Cortez brought in talent from Mexico and South Texas to play live music on the air.
Programming also focused on sharing the Mexican community’s challenges and triumphs, through call-in shows and advice programs. Cortez also formed the “Sombrero” radio network, a chain of stations across the USA that combined forces in order to improve and promote radio broadcasts.
In 1953, Cortez brought in Manuel Bernal, a popular Mexican radio professional and a skilled musician and writer, to produce commercials and musical programs for the station. Bernal also composed numerous radio jingles. The radio station has remained on the air ever since. Today the station still broadcasts in Spanish only, under the same call letters, on the 1350 AM frequency, with programming from Univisión Radio.
An example of the positive contributions that KCOR made towards the promotion of Latino and Black artists locally was the case of Albert “Scratch” Phillips, one of the first black disc jockeys in San Antonio. Phillips was hired by KCOR in May 1951 to host a nightly two-hour rhythm and blues show.
The show was destined to have a lasting and deep impact on the local music scene. Scratch Phillips was later credited by many artists for exposing them to the type of music that would inspire them to become musicians. He gave support to both local African-American and Chicano R&B groups and is recognised for introducing soul music to San Antonians a decade later.
Two years later, in 1955, after many years of lobbying, Cortez launched KCOR-TV Channel 41, broadcast on the new Ultra-High Frequency (UHF). This was the first television station aimed solely at a Hispanic audience in the continental US and the first to broadcast on UHF. Initially, due to budget restrictions, programs were aired only in the evening, from 7:00 to 10:00 p.m., but slowly but surely, Cortez found sponsors who saw the value of advertising to the Hispanic community, and the station reached all-day broadcasting, offering a variety of daytime shows.
Programmes such as Teatro KCOR and Teatro Motorola were written, directed, and performed by popular Tejano actor Lalo Astol, who had also been involved in KCOR-AM productions. Besides locally produced programming, the station aired movies and variety shows from Mexico or ones featuring well-known Mexican actors. The station also offered community shows that answered common questions, like how to obtain a social security number or even assist community members in finding a job.
What age did Raoul Cortez die?
Cortez died on December 17, 1971, in San Antonio, Texas, at age 66.
How old is Cortez today?
The American media pioneer, broadcaster, Raoul Cortez would have been 118 years old today if he was still alive.