The history of Adventist Hispanic media is both remarkable and inspiring. Only eight years after Adventist radio pioneer H.M.S. Richards, Sr., went on the air in 1930 with his radio broadcast The Tabernacle of the Air in Long Beach, California, Carlos Nicolas began a Spanish radio broadcast, La Hora Cristiana (The Christian Hour), in Los Angeles. That same year, C. A. Robaina also had a Spanish-languageradio program in Brawley, California, called La Voz de la Verdad (The Voice of Truth).
In 1938, Robaina was conducting a three-month evangelistic effort in Brawley, California. His radio program had captured the interest of many Hispanics in and around Brawley. During the last few weeks of his meetings he encountered opposition from the other Protestant pastorsin the area. He had already baptized 10 individuals and was preparing 17 more for baptism.
Just when he needed the radio program the most, he ran out of funding and had todiscontinue it.
The following Sunday, Hispanic preachers, both in Brawley and Calexico, gottogether and started their own religious radio program to counter Robaina’spreaching. They called their radio program La Voz Evangelica (The Evangelical Voice), and requested thesame time slot that Robaina had, hoping that Hispanic listeners wouldthink it was the same program.
Carlos Nicolas realized the potential that radio had to diffuse the Adventist message to the more than a quarter million Spanish-speaking people in Los Angeles.
But the station manager told them that he was savingthat time slot for Robaina.
In a letter to E. F. Hackman, president of Southeastern California Conference, Robaina wrote: “When I saw what these preachers wanted to do, I wanted to go back to preach over the radio. I did not have the money, but I knew the Lord wanted me to use the radio to defend His message, so I went to Calexico and I told the church there that we were responsible before the Lord to see that the truth is preached and protected. I wanted them to pay for the radio hour for some time. I am glad to tell you that the Calexico church will pay for 10 lectures. I was glad to go back to El Centro last Sunday morning and start a new series of Bible lectures. At 8:00 we were on the air just a half hour before the other preacher came on.”1
Carlos Nicolas, pastoring in Los Angeles, realized the potential that radio had to diffuse the Adventist message to the more than a quarter million Spanish-speaking people in Los Angeles. In 1938, he launched his program—La Hora Cristiana (The Christian Hour)—becoming the pioneer of regularly scheduled Hispanic Adventist radio broadcasting in North America. His 15-minute program, airing from 7:00 to 7:15 a.m. every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, began receiving thousands of inquiries from Hispanic radio listeners.
Nicolas’ congregation began growing rapidly through the interests generated from this media.2 In 1940, Nicolas unofficially renamed his program La Voz de la Profecia, patterning it after Richards’ program, Voice of Prophecy. He enlisted a young pastor from Peru, Merardo León, to assist him as the announcer. Two years later, in 1942, Nicolas received a call to central California, where he pastored the Fresno Spanish church.
Meanwhile, at the General Conference (GC), plans were being developed for the extension of English Voice of Prophecy radio programming into the Spanish-speaking countries of Central and South America. General Conference leaders were concerned about reaching the Spanish-speaking multitudes in Latin American countries, because at that time the Hispanic work in the North American Division was comparatively small.
On April 5, 1942, the General Conference Committee voted to ask William Gordon Turner, a GC vice president responsible for North America, and those associated with him in the radio work to begin arranging for the Voice of Prophecy to broadcast in the Spanish-speaking countries of Central and South America.
The Pan-American Broadcasting Company had offered to do that for $55,000 a year.3 On June 4, at the first session of the Latin American Radio Commission of the General Conference, it was officially voted that the name of the Spanish Voice of Prophecy program be called La Voz de la Profecia.
Then on September 3, the commission voted to adapt and translate the English Voice of Prophecy Bible lessons and produce them in Spanish to be used by its Radio Bible School.
Three days later, the commission convened to choose the speaker for the proposed international broadcasts of La Voz de la Profecia. One of the General Conference leaders, while traveling in Cuba, had heard Braulio Perez Marcio on his religious radio program and was impressed. So he suggested Perez Marcio’s name, and the committee voted to extend him a call. He enthusiastically accepted. At the same meeting they voted Merardo León to continue as the program’s announcer.
Perez Marcio was later given authority to adapt the language, illustrations, and poetry of the new international radio broadcasts to appeal to the largely Roman Catholic audiences of Latin countries.
That same year, Perez Marcio moved with his family to Glendale, California, where La Voz de la Profecia was produced and recorded.
In 1944, Mexican-born Juan Eduardo Perez was called to La Voz as the announcer. He remained with Perez Marcio until 1950. Perez was married to Lydia Sanchez, the fourteenth of 15 children born to Adiel Sanchez of Arizona’s Sanchez family, charter members of the first Hispanic Adventist church in North America (see www.adventistreview.org/1909-50).
During World War II, Perez Marcio urged those in charge of the radio work at the General Conference to change the name of the broadcast from La Voz de la Profecia to La Voz de la Esperanza (The Voice of Hope). “There is a world war going on. What our people need,” he argued, “is a religious program that deals with practical, everyday issues and gives them esperanza (hope) to live by.”4
The name change was finalized in 1954, and ever since La Voz de la Esperanza has been a voice of hope to a troubled world.
This article is adapted from The Untold Story: 100 Years of Hispanic Adventism. Manuel Vasquez (1937-2005) was North American Division vice president for Multilingual Ministries until 2005.