Television is powerful and millions of Americans see their community in the Spanish language on it. “Last minute! Latinas Report Breaking News,” is a bilingual exhibit that opened on September 15 at the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History, at the start of National Hispanic Heritage Month.
It showcases the work of Latina journalists and how they wrote the first draft of the history of major American events for the Spanish-speaking communities they report on.
Working in the fast-paced, ever-changing environment of broadcast news, these journalists became powerful advocates for their communities and reported breaking news.
The relationship between Spanish-language television and American history is explored in the exhibition through the collective experience of seven journalists as examples of the ways in which Latinas have reported on historical events for Spanish-speaking communities.
Ilia Calderón, Dunia Elvir, Marilys Llanos, Gilda Mirós, Lori Montenegro, María Elena Salinas and Blanca Rosa Vílchez illustrate the community-centered journalism that has become the hallmark of Spanish-language television in the United States.
“From the beginning, the Spanish stations offered women opportunities to break down barriers in a way that the English stations did not,” said Kathleen Franz, project director and president of the museum's Division of Labor and Industry.
“By sharing stories about these journalists,” he added, “we can see how Spanish-language television gave voice and visibility to a large segment of the American public. “As a nation, we cannot understand the history of American broadcasting without the inclusion of Spanish-language television.”
Spanish-language television has a long history in the continental United States, with San Antonio widely recognized for the importance of the 1954 FCC license for Latin-owned and operated KCOR-TV, now KWEX, which first broadcast in 1955. In Puerto Rico, WKAQ-TV is the first television station licensed in 1954 and on the air that year. The professional trajectories of the journalists reflect the development of the networks from the Spanish International Network to the growth of Univision and Telemundo from the late 1980s to the present.