EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) – Mexican television pioneer Arnoldo Cabada de la O died of natural causes Monday morning, staff at his XHIJ-TV station reported. He was 86 and the father of Juarez Mayor Armando Cabada.
“Saturday, he was eating cake with us at the cafeteria on Saturday. He was well. He was very happy,” one his anchors said on a live broadcast. “We are very saddened. Many of us owe everything to him […] to his guidance and support. He always worried about his (employees) and asked what we needed so he could give us that support.”
Cabada had been in and out of hospitals in Juarez and in El Paso in the past few months, although his staff didn’t say why he was ill.
The veteran newsman gained prominence in the 1960s and 1970s because of his social advocacy on television. He became the face of an annual telethon sponsored by the 20-30 Club in Juarez to raise money for lactating mothers in working-class neighborhoods.
He was the news director of XEJ-TV – the only Juarez television station with a local newscast at the time – through 1979. The following year, he founded a UHF television station with a signature social work program, “Entrevistas con el Público,” where people in need came to the XHIJ studio to tell their stories and solicit funds for medical procedures and other needs.
“We had to go into homes and show people how to install a UHF antenna in their television sets so they could watch channel 44. UHF channels were a novelty in Mexico at the time,” Cabada told the El Paso Herald-Post in the early 1990s.
The journalist-turned-entrepreneur was highly successful and became known as a philanthropist.
“He was a great humanitarian. He didn’t back down when he was criticized. He was a man of the people who forged his own path,” said Luis Cardona, who worked for Cabada and now runs the news website Diario19.com. “I learned to value freedom or expression working with him. He never favored his political or economic preferences over my work. He respected my investigative work.”
Cabada ran for the Mexican Congress in 1985 on behalf of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) and lost to an opposition party that seven years later would take over control of the state, the PAN. He never ran for public office again. One of his sons, Armando Cabada, ran for mayor of Juarez as an independent candidate in 2016 and won.
“Today a great man has left us. My role model, my heroe,” Mayor Cabada posted on Facebook.