In 1972, after Castro banned Christmas in Cuba, then-news director Emilio Milián proposed a Three Kings Parade in Miami — a celebration still held today. Four years later, after Milián aired editorials condemning terrorist activity in the United States by Cubans, he was almost killed by a car bomb that severed both of his legs.
In the tradition of Cuban advocacy journalism, the station featured callers on the air who were sometimes cut off if they were rude or disagreed with the host. It rallied protesters, called for boycotts, raised money for causes and stirred long-coveted Cuban-American voters.
In 1980, the station broke the news that Cuba would allow exiles to travel to the island by sea to pick up relatives — launching the Mariel boatlift. Two years later, the station purchased a new antenna to transmit into the heart of Cuba without Castro government interference.
But eventually, the station lost ground to Mambí, which snatched some of Cubanísima’s most popular personalities, including Regalado. The stations became cousins when ownership consolidated in 1993 — a move opposed by advocates of dialogue with Cuba who feared the airwaves would be dominated by hardliners.
The station continues to feature moderate conservative to conservative hosts. But it’s a far cry from its days of airing all Cuba news, all the time, though it still plays its catchy jingle recorded decades ago by the late Celia Cruz: “ Yo llevo a Cuba la voz, desde esta playa lejana ...” (I send to Cuba my voice, from this distant beach ...).
The new WQBA, under the Univision America network, will continue to feature Pedaleando con Bernie (Pedaling with Bernie), Pardo’s morning drive-time show. Other local talent is being considered for Univision America projects in Miami.
The remainder of the station’s programming, other than Miami Heat coverage, will come from Univision America, which will include stations in Chicago, Houston, Dallas, McAllen, Texas, El Paso, San Antonio, Las Vegas and Los Angeles.
WQBA’s afternoon drive-time show, Prohibido Callarse (Silence Banned), co-hosted by Aguirre Ferré and Rodríguez Tejera, will be canceled. Armando Fernández Lima will move to Mambí as part of its sports coverage, and other projects are still being considered.
WQBA’s existing early-morning show, Ahora con Oscar Haza (Now with Oscar Haza) will transfer to Mambí. Haza, who is also a popular local television personality, will then co-host En Caliente (In the Hot Seat) with Mambí fixtures Ninoska Pérez Castellón and Pérez Roura, that station’s news director. The more moderate Haza has been considered a rival of Pérez Roura, the voice of the first-generation Cuban exile community.
Tomás García Fusté, a former WQBA news director who left after the station dropped its Cuban focus, said he’s intrigued by the changes and thinks consolidating Univision’s local personalities in one station could work well — as long as everybody gets along.
The Spanish-language radio market has gotten increasingly crowded with stations, he noted, while WQBA and Mambí competed with each other.
“There’s really a series of new radio stations that have high ratings,” said García Fusté, who leads a daily television show on TeleMiami. “I think now they’re really going to get Radio Mambí to function.”