Veteran TV news anchor Guillermo Benites, the star of Univisión Canal 23 for nearly four decades and one of the pioneers of Spanish-language television in the United States, died Saturday in Miami at the age of 75.
The Argentine-born Benites, who more than any other local journalist reported on the life of the city and its varied communities, passed away from a lung disease, surrounded by members of his family, said his only son, Guillermo Benites Jr.
“My father was an outstanding man, to our family and to this community. More than a father, he was my best friend, a person who raised the standards for what it means to be a man,” he said. “He dedicated himself to his work and the people, always doing the kind of unbiased, classic, ethical journalism that his audience knew him for.”
Meticulous and creative, a magnificent conversationalist who was always courteous and had a sharp sense of humor, Benites connected with his audiences through his simple language and surprisingly neutral accent.
“The daily challenge is to make people want to see you, to trust you. You can’t disappoint them. The daily challenge is to maintain that trust and credibility,” he told el Nuevo Herald during an interview in 2001.
Benites was one of the key players in the evolution of Spanish-language TV in South Florida, from its beginnings as a small industry to becoming a modern communications system, which reflected the growth of the Hispanic population, eventually drawing audiences larger than those of regional English-language television.
“Guillermo saw himself as a soldier, always ready to give his best in any job we assigned to him,” said Norberto Perdomo, one of his closest producers and creator of the special report on Benites that was broadcast when he retired in September 2015.
Benites was born in Buenos Aires on Sept. 21, 1941, the son of Adolfo and Elvira Benites. He studied journalism and broadcasting at the Instituto Superior de Enseñanza Radiofónica, married his first wife Gloria Nosti and moved to Venezuela at the age of 21. Six years later, in 1968, he came to Miami.
At a time when Hispanic media jobs were few, he started out as an announcer in the WFAB La Fabulosa radio station and rose to director of programming. He started out in Canal 23 as a weatherman, and soon afterward became its main news anchor.
His colleague of 24 years, Alina Mayo Azze, said she mourned the death of someone who was not only a “coworker, friend and brother but even a second father.”
“He leaves a huge vacuum on this community,” the news anchor said. “He gave everything to his work. He served the public and loved his family, but his work was very important for him, and that’s why the public respected him so much.”
Benites is survived by his wife Maria, son Guillermo Jr., daughter-in-law Alina and two grandchildren, Karina and Alejandro. Funeral services on Monday will be private.
Nuevo Herald reporter Nora Gamez Torres contributed to this report.