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Fronteras: Spanish Language Media In U.S. Owes Existence To Irma & Emilio Nicolas

The media plays a large role in shaping our thoughts and beliefs. And a few trailblazers from San Antonio are responsible for the development and success of the largest Spanish-language media outlet in the U.S.

Philanthropist and businessman Guillermo Nicolas spoke of the achievements of his parents, Emilio and Irma, and how they established a cultural and economic legacy for all Spanish-speaking Americans.

Guillermo Nicolas with his parents.
Credit Courtesy of Guillermo Nicolas
Emilio Nicolas (left), Guillermo Nicolas (center) and Irma Nicolas pose for a photo on Mother's Day in 2016.

In 1962, Univision made its debut as the fourth major media network in the U.S., following NBC, CBS, and ABC. Guillermo’s maternal grandfather, Raoul Cortez, paved the way for the network’s success after starting the nation’s first full-time Spanish-language radio and television stations, KCOR-AM and TV, in 1946.

Irma first gained her experience in the media landscape through her father, and when she and Emilio married, the two quickly became the media power couple of their day.

Mexican-Americans faced harsh segregation in the U.S. at the time, but despite those challenges, Irma and Emilio pioneered the largest Spanish-language network to this day.

Irma was born in San Antonio, and Emilio was a native of Coahuila, Mexico. He moved to the Alamo City, learned English and earned degrees in chemistry and biology. Their son Guillermo, president of 3N, a privately-held company specializing in urban re-development, said his parents’ names may not be widely known for a simple reason: humility.

In 2020, Texas Public Radio’s headquarters will be relocated to the stage house of the historic Alameda Theater on the westside of downtown San Antonio.

As a way to honor his parents and serve as an inspiration for the growing Mexican-American population, Guillermo secured the naming rights of TPR's new home: the Irma & Emilio Nicolas Media Center.

Learn more about the Nicolas legacy with this definitive guide to thehistory of Spanish language radio and television in the U.S. and from the Smithsonian National Museum of American History

Norma Martinez can be reached at norma@tpr.org and on Twitter @NormDog1 and Lauren Terrazas can be reached at lauren@tpr.org and on Twitter @terrazas_lauren.

Norma Martinez can be reached at norma@tpr.org and on Twitter at @NormDog1
Lauren Terrazas can be reached at lauren@tpr.org and on Twitter at @terrazas_lauren