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Telemundo donation captures rich history of Spanish-language TV

Smithsonian Insider

The history of Spanish-language television in the U.S. spans more than 70 years. It began in the 1940s and 1950s with local radio and TV […]

The post Telemundo donation captures rich history of Spanish-language TV appeared first on Smithsonian Insider.

Computer, Dead Reckoning, Spanish Language, Halpin Coairdinator

National Air and Space Museum
White rectangular celluloid, 4.3 in. h x 10 in. w., with black markings

En Sintonía: Tuning in to the Origins of Spanish-Language Television in the U.S.

Smithsonian Insider

Spanish-language television—a billion dollar business—has its roots in the 1950s. The earliest stations began broadcasting from Puerto Rico, Texas, and California, at a time when […]

The post En Sintonía: Tuning in to the Origins of Spanish-Language Television in the U.S. appeared first on Smithsonian Insider.

Earning a place on the dial: Raoul Cortez, KCOR, and Spanish-language radio

National Museum of American History

In the U.S. today, Hispanic media is big business. In 2013, Advertising Age reported that spending in the U.S. Hispanic media market topped out at $8.3 billion dollars—an 8.1% increase from the previous year. To put these figures into perspective, in 2013, the overall growth of media spending in the U.S. was just 0.9%. Clearly, today's advertisers are interested in reaching Hispanic consumers.

KCOR Radio Microphone, early 1950s

But it wasn't always this way. In the 1940s and 1950s, Hispanic entrepreneurs had to fight for space on the U.S. radio dial. As part of the recently opened American Enterprise exhibition in the Mars Hall of American Business, curators collected a group of objects, images, and documents to capture this foundational period in the broadcasting business. These new acquisitions chronicle the history of KCOR, one of the nation's first full-time, Spanish-language radio stations, as well as the life of its trailblazing founder, Raoul A. Cortez.

Photograph of Raoul A. Cortez, 1940s

Born in 1905 in Jalapa, Veracruz, Mexico, Cortez grew up in a media-savvy family, with a father who owned a radio station in Laredo, Mexico. In the 1910s, during the early days of the Mexican revolution, Cortez's family emigrated to the United States. Cortez eventually moved to San Antonio, Texas, where he took on a number of different jobs, including working as a reporter for La Prensa, a Spanish-language daily newspaper.

Typewriter, about 1937

Cortez began his career in broadcasting through what was called the "broker system," purchasing blocks of time on local stations for a flat fee and then re-selling time slots to performers and advertisers. Cortez had already been working as a booking agent in San Antonio, scheduling theater shows for Mexican musicians and other performing troupes. Now, he could put performers on the air. But while the broker system created a small space for Hispanic artists on the radio, Cortez continually struggled to win his Spanish-language programs more airtime on the city's established, Anglo-owned stations.

In the early 1940s, Cortez decided to strike out on his own and build a new, independent Spanish-language station. However, creating a radio station from scratch was no easy task. Cortez discovered that licensing and funding a Spanish-language station was doubly difficult. His first challenge was getting approval from the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC). During World War II, many Americans feared that non-English radio could be used to spread seditious messages, and the FCC enforced strict controls over what was allowed to go out on the airwaves. Undaunted, Cortez turned these restrictions to his advantage. His 1943 application argued that a new, full-time Spanish language station would help the U.S. win support for the war effort among Spanish-language speakers. Cortez's appeal seems to have worked, as the FCC issued him a license in 1946.

KCOR FCC License, 1948

On February 15, 1946, Cortez launched his new Spanish-language station, KCOR, at the frequency 1350 AM. From the beginning, the small station faced a number of obstacles, the largest being advertising sponsorships. Many local retailers in San Antonio believed that Mexican Americans lacked the economic resources to be good consumers, and national brands were unwilling to risk buying advertising time because there were no audience ratings for Spanish-language radio; in other words, national advertisers could not tell how many people were listening.

Cortez and the rest of KCOR's staff tackled this problem in a variety of ways. Cortez made selling the station a priority, hiring several dedicated salespeople and employing a private audience survey firm to count KCOR's listeners. KCOR's announcers also asked their listeners to send in box tops, product labels, and empty containers as proof that they purchased nationally-branded products.

Renowned Entertainer Leonardo “Lalo” Garcia Astol, 1950s

To fill an entire day of airtime, Cortez employed a dedicated group of actors and writers to create variety shows and original novellas (serial dramas) for the station. While KCOR's announcers followed the format of many English-language radio station in the 1940s and 1950s, the station emphasized the top songs and artists from Mexico, increasing the profile of Spanish-language music in the United States. Cortez also broadcasted African American-focused programming in the late night hours after 9:30 p.m. He sold the station in 1960 to Inter-American Radio owned by a group of Anglo media investors.

In the years that followed, Cortez expanded his broadcasting business. By the mid-1950s, television was big business. In 1955 two thirds of American households had a set. On June 10, 1955, Cortez launched his company into America's booming television business with KCOR-TV, the first Spanish-language TV station owned by a Hispanic in the continental U.S. In 1961, KCOR-TV became KWEX with the sale of the station to Emilio Nicolas Sr., Raoul Cortez's son-in-law, and a group of investors. Today, both KCOR and KWEX are a part of the Univision network. Thanks to the generosity of the Cortez and Nicholas's families, as well as the Univision network, the story of KCOR is now a part of the collections at the museum.

Raoul Cortez, seated, and employees of KCOR Radio, about 1949.

Visitors who would like to learn more about Cortez, KCOR, and KWEX-TV can visit the American Enterprise website.

Jordan Grant is a New Media Assistant working with the American Enterprise exhibition.

Posted Date: 
Monday, October 12, 2015 - 08:00
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Global Competence Activities for World Language Classrooms

Smithsonian Education
Discover classroom-tested, ready-to-use teaching resources to enhance the World Language curriculum and foster students’ communication, critical thinking, and collaboration skills. Two Spanish-language teachers present activities for middle and high school language classrooms, all grounded in Project Zero Thinking Routines and Global Competence strategies and designed to promote global-mindedness, curiosity, and empathy. Presenters: Vicky Masson, Christ Episcopal School (MD), Marcela Velikovsky, Bullis School (MD), and Philippa Rappoport, Smithsonian Learning Lab.

Spanish short stories [sound recording] / read in Spanish by Jorge Juan Rodriguez

Ralph Rinzler Folklife Archives and Collections
Cover design by Ronald Clyne.

Biographical notes in Spanish and English with text of stories in Spanish in booklet (16 p. : ill.) inserted in original container. Photograph by Jac Guy.

The cover lists the publisher number as SL 9931 and the record label lists FL 9931.

Read by Jorge Juan Rodriguez.

Related materials may be found in the Moses and Frances Asch Collection, also held by this repository. Related materials may include correspondence between the studio, producers, and/or performers; original cover art designs; original production materials; business records; and audiotapes from studio production.

Stories by Pedro Antonio de Alarcon and Gustavo Adolfo Becquer read in Spanish by Jorge Juan Rodriguez.

Entre hermanas [sound recording] : between sisters : women's songs in spanish / sung by Suni Paz

Ralph Rinzler Folklife Archives and Collections
Words and music chiefly by Suni Paz.

Cover design by Ronald Clyne.

Cover woodcut of Suni by Elsa Garcia Pandavenes.

Recording engineered by Mike Sobol.

Notes with Spanish song texts and English translations in booklet (8 p. : ill.) inserted in original cover. Translations by Robin Palmer. Photographs by Eva Cockcroft.

Suni Paz, vocals, guitar ; Martha Siegel, cello ; Norton Torres, bongo ; Ramiro Fernandez, bomba, maracas ; Teddy Holt, flute.

Related materials may be found in the Moses and Frances Asch Collection, also held by this repository. Related materials may include correspondence pertaining to the recording, original cover art designs, production materials, business records, and audiotapes from studio production.

Who Are the 2.8 Million Non-Hispanic Americans Who Speak Spanish at Home?

Smithsonian Magazine

Across America, conversations in more than 300 languages roll off the tongues of 314 million people, more than 20 percent of whom speak a language other than English at home. And that rate is rising. Most of these non-English speakers also speak English. But of all the languages spoken in the home other than English, Spanish is far and away the most common, says a new analysis by the Pew Research Center.

According to the the Pew researchers, there are 37.6 million Americans who speak Spanish at home. But, interestingly, only 34.8 million of them self-identify as Hispanic. This means that there are 2.8 million Americans over the age of 5 talking in Spanish who are not Hispanic. Pew:

Who are the 2.8 million non-Hispanics who speak Spanish at home? Some 59% trace their ancestry to non-Spanish European countries such as Germany, Ireland, England and Italy. An additional 12% say they are of African American descent.

…The racial composition of non-Hispanic Spanish speakers mirrors that of the U.S. non-Hispanic population. Overall, three-quarters (77%) of non-Hispanics who speak Spanish at home are white, 14% are black, and 9% say they belong to some other racial group.

The big driver of Spanish speaking by non-Hispanics, the report suggests, seems to be family:

Many non-Hispanic Spanish speakers reside in a household where at least one other member is Hispanic. Overall, 26% of non-Hispanic Spanish speakers live in these types of households.

…Three-in-ten (28%) non-Hispanics Spanish speakers who are married live with a Hispanic spouse.

According to a different Pew study release last year, the rate of interracial marriage in the U.S. is also on the rise—one in twelve marriages are now interracial—which could further accelerate the diversity of languages used in America.

More from Smithsonian.com:

At American History, Meet the Composer of the Spanish Language National Anthem
Celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month, Try a Spanish-Language Scavenger Hunt

Cubeo Tales of Kuwai (in spanish), by Maria Dsuremawa and Discussion of Pirasemú, November, 1969 [sound recording]

National Anthropological Archives
Digitization and preparation of these materials for online access has been funded through generous support from the Arcadia Fund.

Labeled Vaupés 2

The island of Cuba / by Alexander Humboldt ; translated from the Spanish, with notes and a preliminary essay, by J.S. Thrasher

Smithsonian Libraries
"Remarkable for having omitted Humboldt's views on slavery, of which the author publicly and deservedly complained."--Sabin, Bibl. amer.

Translation of Ensayo político sobre la isla de Cuba, a Spanish ed. of Essai politique sur l'île de Cuba.

" ... has been published as a separate work both in the French and Spanish languages"--Pref.

"W.H. Tinson, stereotyper. Pudney & Russell, printers."--Verso of t.p.

Copyright 1855, by J.C. Derby.

Also issued online.

Also available online.

SCNHRB copy (39088016463457) imperfect: lacking map.

SCNHRB copy has [10] p. of publisher's advertisements bound-in at end.

SCNHRB copy has blind-embossed stamp on 2nd leaf: Smithsonian Institution National Museum.

SCNHRB copy inscribed in ink on front free endpaper: E.H. Tracy.

SCNHRB copy bound in original blue publisher's cloth, blind-embossed decoration, title in gilt on spine; bookseller's ticket: A.E. Foote, Philadelphia, Pa.

Elecresource

Sound recording n.d

National Anthropological Archives
Digitization and preparation of these materials for online access has been funded through generous support from the Arcadia Fund.

Aluminum disc

Gazapito y Gazapete / ilustraciones de Ernesto A. Aris y de Marco

Smithsonian Libraries
Title within ornamental border; illustrated lining-papers.

Also available online.

Elecresource

CHMBRAD copy 39088010281020 gift of Misses Hewitt.

Sound recording n.d

National Anthropological Archives
Digitization and preparation of these materials for online access has been funded through generous support from the Arcadia Fund.

Aluminum disc

Sacred and profane music of the Ika [sound recording] / recorded by Jim Billipp

Ralph Rinzler Folklife Archives and Collections
Program notes by Jim Billipp (4 p. : ill.) inserted in container.

Recorded in 1976, San SebastiaÌn, Colombia by Jim Billipp.

Sound recording 04 AUG 1936

National Anthropological Archives
Digitization and preparation of these materials for online access has been funded through generous support from the Arcadia Fund.

SC WN

Disc Note:Aeh List

SEE CHU 0133, 0134, 0135, 0180-0182 CHU CT58:CHU CT59, 7.50IPS, NARS

Aluminum disc

Sound recording 04 AUG 1936

National Anthropological Archives
Digitization and preparation of these materials for online access has been funded through generous support from the Arcadia Fund.

Disc Note:Aeh List

SEE CHU 0206-0208, 0210 CHU CT84, 7.50IPS, NARS

Aluminum disc

Sound recording n.d

National Anthropological Archives
Digitization and preparation of these materials for online access has been funded through generous support from the Arcadia Fund.

Aluminum disc

Men testing the recording equipment.

Sound recording n.d

National Anthropological Archives
Digitization and preparation of these materials for online access has been funded through generous support from the Arcadia Fund.

Aluminum disc

Sound recording n.d

National Anthropological Archives
Digitization and preparation of these materials for online access has been funded through generous support from the Arcadia Fund.

Aluminum disc

Sound recording 04 AUG 1936

National Anthropological Archives
Digitization and preparation of these materials for online access has been funded through generous support from the Arcadia Fund.

Disc Note:Aeh List

SEE CHU 0133, 0134, 0135, 0180, 0181, 0183 CHU CT58:CHU CT59, 7.50IPS, NARS

Aluminum disc
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