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“Tuto” Giménez Was a Broadcast Leader in Puerto Rico

The late AM radio advocate saw value in community service

Alfonso Giménez Porrata wouldn’t let hurricanes or earthquakes keep one of Puerto Rico’s most respected broadcast stations off the air for long. Serving his community by providing life-saving information was vital to him. 

Giménez Porrata, president of WPAB(AM) in Ponce, Puerto Rico, died in November after a long illness. He was 85.

Broadcast colleagues describe the influential broadcaster as the pillar of Puerto Rico radio. “He was an excellent mentor, journalist and businessman,” according to one radio acquaintance.

He studied electrical engineering for several years at Virginia Polytechnic Institute but returned to Puerto Rico in the 1960s to complete his business degree. He worked as a technician, reporter, manager and president of the station his father helped establish. 

Known as Tuto — a nickname given him by a younger sister — Giménez Porrata commented regularly on issues in Puerto Rican society and covered major news events over five decades. “The media should question those who hold power, because if they don’t, governments will never improve,” he told the publication La Perla del Sur in 2011.

He also was chair of Puerto Rico’s State Emergency Communications Committee for the past decade.  

Family enterprise

WPAB, named for Puerto Rican American Broadcasting, broadcasts at 550 kHz with 5,000 watts in Playa de Ponce, one of 31 barrios that comprise the municipality of Ponce, an hour southwest of San Juan. The station broadcasts a Spanish news/talk radio format and operates FM translator W226CS on 93.1 MHz. 

His father, Alfonso Giménez Aguayo, was an original shareholder and later owner of WPAB. The station is considered by observers of the broadcast landscape in Puerto Rico as one of the most important voices on the island. It was co-founded in 1940 by Giménez-Aguayo when Tuto was 3, according to the station’s website. Giménez Porrata worked nearly 60 years at the station.

According to the station site, WPAB became a popular music station, giving valuable exposure to homegrown Puerto Rican artists by playing their music. It later introduced Puerto Rico to a news/talk format in the 1970s and filled a critical role following 2020’s earthquake and Hurricane Maria in 2017.

Giménez Porrata’s career began at a time when AM radio was still king in Puerto Rico. Now FM and HD Radio populate the island and overshadow the senior band; but according to his colleagues, AM radio there still carries some cachet, at least compared to the mainland United States, and serves a critical role in providing emergency information, something Giménez Porrata was passionate about. 

His widow Norma Colón Daleccio said her husband was also known as a historian and expert in international politics and that he regularly shared his comments and opinions on air. 

“AM radio is the one medium that still keeps the local communities informed when there is an emergency or natural disaster,” she said. “The people of Puerto Rico became more aware of the importance of the AM stations when Hurricane María and the earthquakes happened. People here like the accessibility of this medium and the identification it has with them.”

Giménez Porrata ascended to the role of president at WPAB by 1992, having learned all aspects of radio and how to run a successful broadcast operation, she said.

“Tuto was trained in every aspect of the operation of the radio station. This includes the engineering and technical aspects as well as the management and administration aspects. He thought it was important to know the business. WPAB was his passion,” she said. 

Tuto’s passing means the loss of a lot of institutional knowledge of Puerto Rico’s broadcast history, she continued.

“Just a year ago he collaborated with a pair of writers for a book about the history of radio in Puerto Rico, but still many details were not mentioned. He had many experiences that were not well documented. I’m sad about that.”

Giménez Porrata’s radio recollections are featured in the book “Un país que se escucha: Apuntes sobre la historia de la Radio en Puerto Rico,” which can be translated as “A Country That Is Listened to: Notes on the History of Radio in Puerto Rico.” The book, published in 2021, was co-authored by Ismael Torres Otero and Mario E. Roche Morales.  

The next generation

Colón Daleccio in an email to Radio World said the city of Ponce played a pivotal role in Tuto’s life, which included many walks along city’s seafront boardwalk. The city of 135,000 on Puerto Rico’s southern coast is known for its Ponce Creole architectural style.

“As for the connection and importance of Ponce for Tuto, as ponceño (a native of Ponce) and as Puerto Rican, the safety of the community comes first,” she wrote. 

“For a dozen years he was the chair of the SECC. Besides being a broadcaster, making sure the EAS functioned as it should was his mission. And not only at WPAB, but at all affiliated stations in Puerto Rico. He had stepped down from his chairmanship just a few days before passing.” 

Manny Centeno, program manager at the Federal Emergency Management Agency and a longtime acquaintance, said his passing is a loss for radio there.

“Broadcasters in Puerto Rico owe much of their success to folks like Tuto Giménez. To me he was the quintessential broadcaster. He led WPAB for most of his adult life and developed it into one of the most important sources of news and information in Puerto Rico,” Centeno said. He too mentioned Tuto’s leadership in emergency alerting and the role of AM radio.

“Giménez Porrata contributed to saving many lives in times of emergency. He understood very well his role as a broadcaster serving the public interest,” he said.

Colón Daleccio said WPAB has now passed to the third generation of the Giménez family. She says Tuto’s children from his first marriage, Alfonso and Maria Luisa, are actively involved in running the station. WPAB has been in the hands of the family for more than 82 years.

“Now it is in the hands of his heirs to continue the legacy. I believe some changes are coming, hopefully for the better. We’ll have to wait and see.”

A wake for Gimenez-Porrata, who had celebrated his 85th birthday shortly before death, was held in December. 

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