Houston's first Hispanic TV news reporter

Mayra Moreno Image
Monday, October 9, 2023
Houston's first Hispanic TV news reporter
Former ABC13 reporter Elma Barrera paved the way for so many. She looks back on her career and staying true to her roots.

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- For 34 years, she was a constant on Eyewitness News, making a name for herself right along with legendary anchors Dave Ward and Marvin Zindler.

Elma Barrera did it without ever changing who she was, keeping the authenticity of her name.

"I always said Barrera, so how could I change it?," said Elma. "It's hard to forget your roots."

As Houston's first female Hispanic TV news reporter, Elma accomplished so much without forgetting her heritage.

She produced and hosted a Spanish TV show, founded the Houston Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and also co-founded Houston's first Spanish language TV station.

"When you were here at KTRK and they didn't have Univision, how was the Hispanic community getting the information they needed?"

"They didn't. It just didn't happen," said Elma.

In August of 1983, when Hurricane Alicia hit, it was Elma who was able to step in and guide the Hispanic community through the devastating hurricane.

However, becoming a TV news reporter was an accident for Elma.

"I walked into this room and they gave me a job," she said.

She was working in radio back then and she was at Channel 13 to interview the news director. The topic?

"Why aren't there more Hispanics in the media?" she recalled.

The very next day, she found herself back at Channel 13 working her very first TV news story.

Over the course of her lengthy career, she covered some fun stories but also the tragic ones. Some of those, she still remembers vividly, such as a devastating car wreck.

"I went behind the building and sobbed. That was the only time that I had broken like that," she said.

"Did you ever tell anyone about that experience?"

"No," she said.

The community still remembers her reporting when tragedy struck the Hispanic community. The Moody Park riots were sparked after José "Joe" Campos Torres, a Mexican-American veteran, was beaten and killed by several Houston police officers in 1977.

"They were having a meeting and that turned into a riot. And I was coming in from out of town," she recalls. "And I heard it on the radio and I said, take me."

Other stories haven taken her to Central and South America interviewing presidents and giving her Hispanic community a voice.

"I did all these stories and it was second nature to me. It was kind of different, but it was second nature because I spoke Spanish and other people, you know, kind of wanted to do the stories, but they wouldn't have been able to," she said.

It has been many years since Elma set foot in her old stomping grounds. The newsroom looks much different but some of her long-time co-workers she still remembers fondly.

She's as humble as they come but if one thing is true, she broke barriers for many in this industry.

"I'm very happy to have been able to do it because it was not my intention. You know, I just went to do an interview with a news director," she said.