Here’s How Cuban Talk Show Host Cristina Saralegui Changed The Game For Latinos On TV
If you’re Cuban, or from Miami, you know who Cristina Saralegui is. Your mother would be in the kitchen and make you parrot everything she said on El show de Cristina from the living room. She’s the hetero Ellen Degeneres of Spanish language television, and we haven’t seen her on the TV in almost ten years.
Her show covered controversial topics for its time, including domestic violence, sex abuse and actually covering the AIDS epidemic when no research was being conducted. Let us tell you how she got her start and what she’s up to now.
Cristina Maria Saralegui is an Aquarius.
Those airy signs can talk with anyone about anything, which is why she could joke around with the likes of Selena, Shakira, Celia Cruz, and so many other superstars. Saralegui was born on January 29, 1948, which means in her early seventies these days.
Saralegui was born in Miramar, Havana, Cuba.
She’s of Spanish descent from all four grandparents. Cristina has classic oldest sibling vibes, and she’s earned it. She has two younger sisters and two younger brothers.
Her family fled Cuba during the Cuban Revolution in 1960.
She was only 12 years old when her parents, Francisco Rene Saralegui, Jr. and Cristina Santamarina, settled down in Key Biscayne.
She graduated fromthe University of Miami.
Go ‘Canes! Cristina grew up very Catholic and attended Catholic school all the way until college. After graduating from the Academy of the Assumption in Class of 1966, she was off to Miami proper.
Within 6 years of starting an internship at Vanidades, she was editor of Cosmo.
That’s right. She’s said that the internship helped improve her written Spanish. Makes sense that if you suddenly start learning English grammar at age 12, that you’d miss some Spanish lessons. She spent a decade as editor of the Spanish version of Cosmopolitan.
It was in 1989 that she launched her own television show.
El show de Cristina was her first shot at television journalism and Univisión was all on board. The show has received 11 Emmy Awards.
The first time Cristina met Celia Cruz, she had an emotional breakdown.
According to Cristina’s account on El Nuevo Herald, she said, “I remember that I went to interview her at the Diplomat hotel. I started the interview, but in those days I was very sad because I had lost a pregnancy and something unusual happened to me. Suddenly I started to cry, Celia asked me what was wrong, I told her and she gave me a hug and she consoled me. So much was its human warmth that my defenses collapsed and I crossed a line that I never crossed again with anyone I have interviewed.”
Her signature thumbs up al fin del show is iconic.
In classic Cuban Oprah fashion, she’d end every show with this:
“Pa’lante, pa’lante, pa’tras ni pa’ coger impulso”
Which roughly means dale, let’s go, don’t slow down.
Cristina tried to do an English language show, but it was cancelled after half a season.
It went by Cristina, and she launched it three years after El show de Cristina. I guess in 1992, English speakers had Oprah and Spanish speakers had Cristina y ya.
Cristina used her fame to publish her own magazine, Cristina: La Revista.
She’s also two books in multiple languages, one of which is called “My Life as a Blonde.” Haven’t read it yet, but I’m curious to hear the hardships la rubia life has that could even compete with the hairy morena life.
Cristina’s magazine and career has been lauded by GLAAD for its LGBTQ inclusivity.
In 1997, GLAAD awarded her the Media Vanguard Award, which was followed up 16 years later with the Media Award for Outstanding Magazine. Cristina and her husband have also founded the Arriba La Vida Foundation to promote AIDS awareness and education in the Latinx community.
She was part of the 1999 Class of the Hollywood Walk of Fame stars.
She got her star on November 4, 1999, and its well-deserved. From running Cosmo to launching her own television show, magazine, furniture and beauty product lines, Cristina has dominated every industry she’s touched.
Her first ever political endorsement was for Barack Obama’s second run.
She spoke at a rally in Miami, FL, and the crowd went nuts for her. Obviously, her presence worked because we got Obama for another term.
Her brother, Iñaki died in 2017.
He spent 5 months in the hospital after a liver transplant and died from complications.
Caption: “Hermano siempre estarás en mi corazon y en el de toda nuestra familia. Te amo. 👍”
Since retiring from television, she’s always posting about her beloved animals.
Like every abuelita in Miami, she loves her cockateels. And her bull dogs. And her Koi.
Caption: “Miren quien se escapó de su jaula. Fígaro se admira en el espejo del comedor. 😃👍”
No really, she even competes in Koi competition shows.
Only in Florida can you find the Central Florida Koi show. Cristina and her husband, Marco Avila, former member of the Miami Sound Machine, are very passionate about Koi.
And she has won.
Caption: “Felicidades mi amor por ganarte otro campeonato con tus Koi.Central Florida Koi Show. 👍👍👍”
From the looks of the caption, the Saralegui family regularly wins the competition.
Saralegui is an avid orchid gardener.
She grows a variety of species in her garden and you know how I know that? She’s constantly posting photos of potted and planted orchids. It’s kind of a Miami thing.
Saralegui has a son, Jon Marcos, with Avila.
The two have been married since 1982, and Cristina also has a daughter with her first husband, Tony Menendez. Today, Cristina has grandkids to spoil rotten, gladly.
Saralegui is an outspoken feminist.
It all started when her father would only pay for her brother’s education growing up. She’s said that was the moment she decided she couldn’t rely on any man for income.
In 1998, before Beyoncé pulled ‘feminist’ from a list of dirty words, Cristina told the Los Angeles Times, “I’m not afraid to say that I’m a very intelligent woman. [Latinas] cannot say that they’re intelligent. They can be beautiful, but they cannot be intelligent. And they cannot brag about it and say, ‘Yes, damn, I am smart and I am a woman.'”
After her show ended in 2011, annual rumors of her death crop up. She alive.
In 2015, she told the Miami Herald, “I don’t on plan dying for a while yet. But I’ll let you know. You all will be invited to the funeral.”
Yup. She’s alive and well and you can catch her on her 24/7 Sirius XM talk show.