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How a former Latino anchor continues to inspire youth to pursue careers in journalism

Former anchor, Rodolfo Cardenas, started the first Spanish newscast in Colorado 25 years ago. Today, he continues making an impact in the community.
Credit: Rodolfo Cardenas

DENVER — Emmy-winning journalist Rodolfo Cardenas has been an icon and leader in the field of journalism in Colorado since he started the first 30-minute Spanish-language newscast in the state over 25 years ago. 

"I was lucky to be in the right place at the right time," he said. "To be part of that chapter of the Spanish-language news history in Colorado."

Cardenas was born in Venezuela. He began working in media in 1984 while he was still in college at the University of Colorado. He ran a musical radio show that included short news segments in the city of Windsor. During that time, he not only had to rush to get to the station at 5 a.m. everyday, but he had to get up to speed with the 'norteño' music of Mexico, a genre that he said he wasn't familiar with. 

“One of the rich things that we have in our Latino community is that we have our own diversity," Cardenas explained. "Sure, we share the same language, basically, but at the same time we are so different. So there is a lot to learn from our Latin American friends in particular."

Credit: Rodolfo Cardenas

When Cardenas first started on television with Telemundo, leaving radio behind for years, he remembers working with very limited resources and personnel. 

"I had to write by hand on that old continuous computer paper," he remembered. "I wrote the news with a marker. We had a cardboard cylinder, we glued the paper there and my technical director, who was my cameraman and who was many things at the same time, would roll it out while I was reading because we didn't have a teleprompter."

Cardenas said that even though the Latino community wasn't as big in those days, he learned a lot along the way of his community, of their needs.

"The community before was not as large or as diverse as it is now," he said. "Nowadays when someone asks me, how big is the Latino community? I say, not only has our Latino community grown in numbers, but it has grown in diversity, and it has also grown in educational preparation. We have journalists, engineers, doctors... a number of professionals. At that time, and even today, the Mexican community continues to be the largest segment of our Latino community."

Cardenas said he identified with the community although he was from South America. 

"The people welcomed me, they welcomed me with such a beautiful human warmth," he said. "They even called me on the phone when I was on the air and said, 'You don't speak Mexican, where are you from?'"

Cardenas was recognized by the Colorado Broadcasters Association in 2003 as the first Hispanic journalist to win the Broadcaster of the Year award.

Credit: Rodolfo Cardenas

While Cardenas was at Univision, he started a project called 'Periodistas del Mañana,' an effort to get more young people interested in the journalism field.

"Many young people say I want to be an engineer, perfect beautiful careers, I want to be a doctor, dentist, veterinarian, architect but there are very few who say I want to be a journalist," he said.

The segment consisted of inviting kids to participate in the newscast and some would win prizes. He sent out a casting notification to bilingual public schools. 

"It was a total success," said Cardenas. He said the kids didn't take it lightly, wearing suits, ties and makeup. Like Cardenas, they read from a script and presented the news. 

Credit: Rodolfo Cardenas

Cardenas is now retired from television but he continues to inform the community on a daily morning radio show called, Hablemos Hoy, or Let's Talk Today. He said he enjoys being able to stay active in the community and give people a platform to express their concerns and get their questions answered. 

Mimicking what he did on television, Cardenas said he will soon offer a radio segment that he will call 'Locutor por Un Mes,' or Announcer for a Month. Four children will be selected per month by schools that wish to participate and will be a part of in the newscast segment. Cardenas said he will also go to the school and chat about the industry, the importance and the responsibility of being a journalist.

Throughout his years in television, Cardenas had the opportunity to interview many artists, political figures from both Latin America and the United States, including two former presidents, George H. W. Bush and Bill Clinton. 

Although Cardenas has met numerous public figures, and said they've all been fantastic, he said he hopes to be able to interview Pope Francis one day. 

"He is the first Latin American pope that we have in Rome," he said. "We can communicate perfectly well in Spanish, and the community will follow with interest every little thing the pope says. In addition, at this time the Catholic Church has gone through many challenges and challenges continue to emerge. The pope is a very progressive man to a point and I consider him extremely intelligent. There are a couple of little things that I don't like that I would like to tell him."

Now that he is not on television, Cardenas said he has more free time. He said he enjoys being able to spend time with his family. He has two children and three grandchildren. He said he was also able to go back to Venezuela for a few weeks. 

"It was a sacrifice for the whole family not being able to be with them," said Cardenas, remembering his days in television. "I'm enjoying my family to the fullest."

 RELATED: 'Escaramuza,' the all-female horseback riding sport, is a Mexican tradition that lives on in Colorado

RELATED: 5 ways to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month in Colorado

>The video above is from January 2019: Here is what is going on in Venezuela explained by Rodolfo Cardenas in about a minute

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