I had the privilege of meeting Dr. Horacio Aguirre, Publisher of Diario Las Américas, in the early 1970s, when I returned to Miami after completing my literary doctoral studies at Emory University. In 1953 Horacio and his brother founded Diario Las Américas, the first Spanish-language daily newspaper in the Southeastern United States.
Since he knew I had a passion for literature (my major) and he, also, admired great writers, he introduced me to his friend, Puerto Rican poet and critic José Balseiro. We enjoyed memorable conversations about Balseiro’s personal connection to the Spanish Generation of 98 and especially to the great writers Miguel de Unamuno and José Ortega y Gasset. Balseiro’s stay in Madrid in the 1920s enabled him to have personal contacts with these literary giants, who inspired him to write important books about them. Horacio valued intellectuals like Balseiro. That is one of the things I most admired about him and certainly a quality that made him stand out among some Miami leaders who were only interested in work that would bring them fame and wealth.
Although Horacio was an American of Nicaraguan origin, his newspaper covered news about all groups in our community. Cuban-Americans, who were the majority of Miami Hispanics in the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s, especially benefited from the coverage that Horacio gave to their achievements and to important Cuban news, activities and issues. He also supported many cultural organizations, including Pro Arte Grateli and the Florida Opera.
When I was Director of Information & Visitors at the City of Miami, Horacio, Mayor Maurice Ferré, and I met in 1981 with the President of Mexico, José López Portillo. Horacio courageously defended the right of the Cuban people to be free and criticized López Portillo to his face for showing favor to Fidel Castro during his personal meeting with the dictator of Cuba, held in Mexico in August 1981. Needless to say, the Mexican President was quite taken aback by this direct, though polite, criticism of his actions.
By the late 1990s our advertising & PR agency, Sanchez & Levitan, had become one of the top twenty in the country. Our relationship with Horacio was professional but it was also a “mutual admiration society.” With his usual wit, Horacio would tell me, “You now belong to Mercury [the Roman god of financial gain and commerce] but your heart really belongs to Apollo [the Greek & Roman god of music, poetry and truth].” I asked myself: “How many Miami leaders would deeply know about the Olympian deities and still be talking about them in the 1990s?”
Horacio helped our agency and our clients enormously. He covered the newsworthy events that we organized and contributed free advertising to support our crazy “big ideas” such as the Fair of Seville in Miami and the Fair of Spain, the first ArtesMiami events, funded by Sanchez & Levitan and other companies.
His greatest achievement was his family. His children have shown through their behavior that Horacio taught them the values of hard work and commitment to Miami and this nation. I count several of them among the people I most admire.
I will never forget Dr. Horacio Aguirre, a one-of-a-kind journalist and businessman. Above all, he was a true gentleman–a man devoted to his family, to Miami and to our community. Those of us who had the honor of knowing him will miss him very much.
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