There are many things that change in life. But for almost 30 years I had a certainty: from Monday to Friday, at 6.30 each night, I would sit next to María Elena Salinas to present, together, the Univision nightly news. Even if the world was falling, there she would be.
And especially in those days when it seemed that the world was falling, there was no one more reliable than Maria Elena to have at your side. I do not exaggerate when saying that she is obsessed with facts and the truth. Those of us who work with her know perfectly when something catches her attention.
Recently, after she announced that she was leaving Univision, I read a note on the teleprinter and then we went to commercials. She took advantage of the two minutes break to tell me that she had spent a couple of hours before dawn investigating that story and that we should have presented it another way. Of course, she was right. That's María Elena. Even in her last days presenting the news she wanted to make sure that everything we said was accurate.
María Elena and I would catch up during commercials. Those who have listened to us - and I am sure they have done it secretly in the control room because we always wear our microphones on the studio set - know we talked about everything. We lived together the birth of her daughters Julia and Gabriela and my children Paola and Nicolás, the death of her mother and my father, the difficult investigation into the life of her father (who at one time was a priest), divorces and new relationships, several changes of ownership at Univision, and a lot of news that has shaken the planet. And in spite of everything, we are still together.
The secret of this coexistence, I believe, was the equality and respect that we always had for each other. From the first day we worked together, around 1988, we agreed on the essentials: she would sit on the right side of the screen and I on the left, she preferred the copies of the script of one color and I in another; she opened the broadcast one day and I the next and, as far as possible, we would share the interviews, trips and the most important stories. The formula worked.
In spite of everything, something was missing: time.
María Elena, it hardly needs saying, is a great reporter. She interviewed the dictator Augusto Pinochet in the full exercise all his brutal power in Chile, and she got into Baghdad at the most dangerous moment of the war in Iraq. But I think I'm not violating any secret by saying she always wanted to spend more time with her daughters (as I do with my children). Journalism is a wonderful profession that allows you to live very intensely, witness history and help others. But you pay a big price by missing anniversaries, birthdays, vacations, hours of sleep, weekends and time with those you love the most. This is not a profession for normal people.
If there is something that characterizes her it is the conviction that she can do anything. Nobody gave her a thing. It was all her own pure effort. She's both Latina and Mexican; she was born in Los Angeles but she never forgot the immigrants. like her parents. María Elena has always avoided becoming the news and protects her private life to the maximum. That's why few know that almost 50 students have been able to go to university thanks to a scholarship that bears her name. Now that he has a little more, she shares it.
It is not unusual for her to, suddenly, let out a laugh. She has a rich laugh. María Elena was always more festive than me. She likes to scream "It's Friday!" when the end of the work week arrives and she drives off from the studio faster than I ever would to get to the first event of the night.
María Elena was one of the first people to welcome me when I started working as a local reporter at the Univision station in Los Angeles in 1984. She called me "Ramitos" and I addressed her as "Salinas." Nothing changed when we started presenting the national news together. All that changed was we left California to move to Miami. And we've been on air for so many years that sometimes people get confused and call me Jorge Salinas. That always amuses me.
I knew that, sooner or later, I would have to write this column. But I put it off until the last moment.
One long night in Philadelphia, at the end of July 2016, she told me upon arriving at the hotel: "This is going to be our last convention together." We spoke without reservations in the corridor and I thought that, perhaps, she was very tired, that she missed her daughters at university and would reconsider. But it wouldn't be so. After the election of Donald Trump, she told me once more: "This is our last presidential election." And then she repeated it on January 20: "This will be our last coverage of a presidential inauguration." So it was.
I understand now, Maria Elena was saying goodbye.
Little by little.
I doubt, sincerely, that Maria Elena will retire. I think she does not know how to and she still has a lot of news to offer. However, she knows that (as I do) we only have one more reinvention and she wants to make the most of it. She will continue with her program in English on Investigation Discovery channel and, in her own time, she will have other surprises for us.
I wanted to give her something special. But she knows me so well that only something written, like this, can touch her. I have to thank you for putting up with me all these years. Nobody, ever, has done it like her and for so long.
María Elena leaves on top. With her on screen, the Univision news broadcast was always the most watched on Spanish TV in the United States. And she leaves on her own terms and in her own time. Typical Maria Elena.