Uplifting the Spirit using my voice & talent.

TAKE 5 with CARLA ARAGÓN featuring George A. Gonzales

He’s a pioneer of New Mexico Spanish language radio, was Santa Fe  Mayor from 1968 to 1972 and the youngest ever (at age 30), was knighted by the Morros de España, is an accomplished singer/song writer/musician, and a well-respected authority of the Spanish language.  These are only a few of George Abran Gonzales’ long string of accomplishments, but the “G”-force behind Que Suave Radio says his greatest success is his God loving family.

71-year-old Gonzales has been married to Celine Vigil Gonzales for 51 years.  They have four sons: Anthony, Patrick, Javier, and Estevan; nine grandchildren and one on the way.  Each has a role in the family owned businesses of Que Suave Radio, the Santa Fe Hometown News, and their various real estate and cell phone tower ventures

George A. Gonzales is truly a Santa Fe Living Treasure and the perfect person to help launch this new column called “Take Five with Carla Aragon” which features five questions answered by someone who has made a difference in the community.

George (my uncle) helped launch my broadcast career in 1972 when I started my senior year at Santa Fe High and he was my Spanish speech coach when I ran for Santa Fe Fiesta Queen (he is a drill sergeant as dozens of people coached by him will attest).  He has been a huge influence in my life… not just in helping me mold my success, but in learning about the value of hard work, tenacity, having faith to take risks and accept the consequences.

Recently, I sat down with him to record his oral history and learn about his amazing life.  Not bad for a young boy from Agua Fria who grew up to become a radio pioneer, recording artist, successful businessman, esteemed public servant, and fervent believer in God.

1. Carla: How did you learn to play guitar and sing?

George: “Ernest and Albert Sanchez lived about a half mile from me (at age 10 in Agua Fria).  They wanted to teach me how to sing.  A trio has three voices; first, second, and third—tercera.  They wanted me to learn tercera—and that’s very hard to learn, you know.  But I guess I finally did, because Ernest made me part of their trio and we sang for about thirty years together as a trio.  We sang everywhere and man, we used to practice every night… five hours without fail.  And Albert had one of the greatest voices ever heard for trio voices, Ernest Sanchez still sings.  I enjoyed growing up with them and enjoyed the music very much.”

(George honed his skills in Spanish when he was a student at Harvey Junior High School.  He competed and dominated the Spanish speech competitions called elocutions.) Carla: Why were you so passionate about writing and speaking in Spanish?

George: “We learned the language which is very important.  Not many kids wanted to do that, but I did.  To this day we use the language, both English and Spanish.  It’s important that you know both languages, or else you got some problems.

Lo apreciamos mucho el idioma Español.  Viene de nuestros padres y es algo que es muy importante para nuestros hijos, y para nuestros nietos, y para nuestra herencia.  Y el Español es muy importante como en Inglés el idioma es muy importante…Inglés e Español.”

2. Carla: As Mayor you made a huge impact in the City of Santa Fe with the Model Cities Program and Urban Development… making sure local residents had adequate services and housing. But the 60’s were also very turbulent… violent protests rocked communities everywhere.  As Mayor, how did you stop the Brown Berets from disrupting the Santa Fe Fiestas in 1971?

George: “They were rioting in Albuquerque and said they were going to do the same thing in Santa Fe.  So we were waiting for them.  We met with Governor King and I said bring some National Guardsmen. And he brought me 500 guys to the armory.  And they were there waiting for the guys.  And when they came to Santa Fe, the National Guard and the Police went to pick them up and put them in jail.  We closed down by six o’clock (Saturday night of Fiestas) and it was history. We closed Santa Fe for three days, because we didn’t want to chance it.”

(George got his start in radio at KTRC in1957.  In the 60’s, he and his brother, Blackie, launched KDCE, the first all Spanish radio station in Northern New Mexico. In 1991, George, his wife, and sons put Que Suave Radio on the air—making it the largest privately owned Spanish language radio station in the state.) Carla:  What was it like starting Que Suave from scratch?

George: “The guy that bought the first commercial was Jimmy Martinez former City Councilor—we still save that money, that dollar.  We still have the final check that Celine paid on the station to the bank…a copy of that recorded to remind you that you did it, the kids did!  And the kids brought it together, without the kids you can’t do it.  Without family, you can’t do it period.”

3. Carla:  You call it the community radio station…that it really belongs to the community.

George:  “We don’t attack anybody on the radio, we don’t believe in that.  We respect the microphone a lot and make sure my kids do, too.  We do use it to promote good issues in Santa Fe, the good things that the people are doing– the city, and the county, and the state.  There’s a lot of things being done now.  The people don’t realize it.  The media just prints the bad stuff. They never print the good stuff.”
Carla:  You are always calling the boys, telling them what to do (ha-ha!)

George: Who told you that?

4. Carla: Well, I’ve kind of watched you in action.  I’m surprised you don’t have a phone attached to your ear. Why are you always on the phone?

George: “I call them as early as six in the morning every morning.  You bet you.  Early, Early.  I call them at night to say good night.  I call them all day long to watch them… and check on sales all the time.  That is it…without sales we have nothing…nothing….nothing.

It’s a form of communications…reach people quick and uh, and everybody needs a telephone.  I believe in cellular phones a lot, because the boys are in that business.  Cell phones are great for everybody.  They save lives.  There’s a commercial (chuckle).”

5. Carla:  What have been your greatest accomplishments in life so far?

George: “The fact that we believe in family, that we believe in God, that we believe in our languages, that we believe in radio, that we believe in music, and we believe in love.  And that’s important.”


July 31, 2009 - Posted by | George A. Gonzales, Santa Fe Hometown News |

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