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Orlando Sentinel

Anibal Torres Was Area's Pioneer Of Spanish-Language Broadcasting

By Joseph Rassel, Sentinel Staff Writer

January 19, 2005
Copyright © 2005 Orlando Sentinel. All rights reserved. 

"Vaya Retiro" -- so much for retirement -- could have been Anibal Torres' motto after moving to Central Florida. But instead of lounging in the Florida sunshine, Torres became instrumental in the development of Spanish-language radio in the Orlando area.

"He taught me how to be a leader in the communications business," said Joey Colon, the Orlando Magic's Spanish-language play-by-play announcer. "He taught us the way to run a business with courage, to be positive, never give up and to chase your dream."

Torres, 78, died Monday from heart disease. He most recently lived in the Oviedo area, after more than a decade in Winter Park.

Long before coming to the area, Torres was a successful entrepreneur. He had worked in a variety of businesses and was most successful in the music industry. He began a music label in Puerto Rico and eventually moved to New York City and started one there. His passion was Latin music.

He worked with Jose Feliciano, and one of his artists, Machito, won a Latin Grammy in 1982. Several other artists with Torres' Top Ten Hits label won numerous Billboard Music Awards.

Soon after arriving in Central Florida in 1990, he saw an opportunity to broaden the market in Hispanic radio. In 1991, he began operating Radio Cosmos, 1270 AM (WHBS). The station was one of the first to provide a 24-hour format and broadcast live from remote locations, including Puerto Rico.

"In essence, when he came here, there was one station," said his son Anibal Torres Jr., publisher of El Sentinel, the Orlando Sentinel's Spanish-language newspaper. "The station was very popular. He started a lot of careers in Hispanic radio in the Orlando area."

Other longtime Hispanic radio and television personalities said Torres was just what the community needed at the time.

"He had charisma, a heart for the people. He had compassion. He cared about the community and wanted them to be informed," said Homan Machuca, news director at 1440 AM (WPRD) and a television reporter for Telemundo.

Radio Cosmos stopped broadcasting in 1995, when Torres' family decided not to pursue a new FCC license.

But Torres avoided retirement. In 1995, he opened a Spanish music retail store, Top Ten Hits, named after the record label. The chain expanded into Orange, Osceola, Seminole, and Volusia counties, including an outlet at Orlando International Airport. The last store was sold in 2000.

Torres' success in business took him far from the San Juan suburb of Bayamon, Puerto Rico, where he was born. He married in 1950 and began opening several small businesses. His career in the music business started in the early 1960s, when he became a distributor for a Mexican record label.

Whether in Puerto Rico, New York or Central Florida, Torres succeeded in finding and encouraging local talent.

"I did my first morning show on his station," Colon said. "He was so down to earth. He was a father figure in the business, and it's tough to find those."

Survivors also include his wife, Ana of Oviedo; son, Hector, Winter Springs; daughters Irma Ornellas, Sanford, and Ana Esther Rosario, Winter Springs; brother Hilario, Puerto Rico; sisters Irma Ortiz, Orlando, and Cuqui Diaz, Puerto Rico; and seven grandchildren.

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