This article was written in 2010 about Letty Garza, KRGV-5 News Anchor. Archiving here.
A career in the public eye often defines the individual. The known person’s name is adjoined by a title, something that reminds everyone of why the name sounds so familiar. This entitlement happens to politicians, professional athletes, religious dignitaries and it happens to Letty Garza, the evening anchor for Channel 5 News.
Letty Garza is a woman born for the bright lights bearing down on her. She recalls that from an early age she felt compelled to express herself publically.
Garza sat down for an interview taking time off from writing a script for a news segment she was putting together. She sat there with an unattached earphone on her shoulder, bubble gum in mouth and with a smile that enthusiastically accompanied her while she spoke.
There is nothing unpleasant about Garza. She has a way of encircling a conversation with welcomed kindness. Down the hallways of the Channel 5 newsroom she can be heard laughing loudly with coworkers, holding conversations with everyone she encounters and her singing voice may change the decibel levels in the room at any given chance.
Music, afterall, was her first passion.
“Being a total Donny Osmond freak,” Garza jokes. “I honestly thought I was going to be some kind of a singer.” She recalls earning her first car by doing wedding gigs. Her family, she mentions, is a musically talented bunch starting from her grandfather and on to her brother that continues his musical career in Los Angeles.
Throughout college she accumulated 200 hours in Music, as that was her major at UTPA. But her sudden turn to journalism came when one of her music lectors told her she had a broadcast personality. He advised her to take journalism courses to get a feel for it.
“I took a newspaper class. And I started writing for the newspaper,” said Garza talking with her hands in the excitement to tell the story of how she stumbled onto the field of broadcast journalism.
“My first article was to write about UTPA’s brand new TV journalism department,” Garza said. She said she got completely involved in the story and made an about-face change switching her major to Communication, specializing in broadcast journalism.
Her career, the one she is known for, was beginning to blossom.
“I was a one-man band”
Back before KRGV-TV’s newscast was called Channel 5 News it was called Eyewitness News from 1970 up until 2000. It was between those years that in 1982, at the age of 22, Letty Garza began interning at the news station. Peter Torgerson, an Eyewitness News anchor from 1979 to 1999, helped Garza land the internship after meeting her at the mall where she worked.
Still in school, and recently married, Garza calls herself the “longest living intern.” She helped run studio cameras, was the first teleprompter operator and soon got noticed as a dedicated employee landing her a morning anchor position.
Garza became a morning news anchor in the mid-80s. She was one of the first Hispanic female news anchors in the Rio Grande Valley television market. Garza describes her morning shows as a unique experience.
“I was a one-man band. I did weather. I produced. I did tapes. There was no prompter at that time. And I was the anchor,” said Garza. Being the only anchor in the newscast meant that she had to report on weather conditions too.
“Nowadays we have all these fancy computers for weather. Back in the day, I used to call AccuWeather and we had the Valley map and the Texas map,” Garza said describing the low tech means of translating the weather to viewers. “We had these humongous numbers and they were all magnets we had to place on the maps. So I did weather and I know a lot about weather, but I try not to tell people that,” Garza jokes that she doesn’t want play forecaster ever again.
Since those times Garza has gotten married twice, raised a child, worked at the Border Patrol from 1994 to 2000 and all the while simultaneously still did work for KRGV-TV. She has been at the news station for 27 years, but six of those years were spent raising her daughter, Talisa Marie McVea.
Six Years of Absence
The six years of absence from the news station were focused on her family. Her busy schedule was bearing down on her time raising her daughter. Her work hours ran late into the night and she said she had to find a job that helped her situation.
In 1994 she started working at the Border Patrol in the McAllen sector as their first Public Information Officer (PIO). Being a PIO brings the responsibility of communications coordinating and working as a spokesperson providing information to the public. Garza retained her public persona and her job at KRGV-TV. She still contributed to the station by doing a weekly segment that focused on the wellbeing of foster children called “Wednesday’s Child.”
With a job change, came some personal changes too. She remarried Reynaldo Manuel Garza in April of ’97. Mr. Garza was Deputy Chief of the Border Patrol. He has retired from that job and now works for State and Homeland Security.
She speaks highly of her second husband.
“He’s the most incredible husband and dad. I’m just so blessed. I really am,” said Garza with a sincere smile on her face.
“Rey is her stepdad,” said Garza in reference to her daughter, “but I think he is better than what her real dad could have ever offered her.”
And as for what Garza has to offer her daughter, she said it was life lessons, but the disheartening part is that the life lessons were her own mistakes. This makes Garza’s eyes water as she talks about the need for a parent to want their child to think highly of them.
“The beauty, I’m not going to say about making those mistakes — but yes in a way that I made them — is that my daughter is learning from those mistakes,” said Garza making sure never to reveal the mistakes. Her face, although, shown upon it a regret for the miscalculations she kept closeted.
“And she tells me, Mom I’m not going to make the same mistakes you did,” looking down while she explains to me why it hurts when her daughter tells her this, Garza continues. “One, it’s embarrassing. And two, you want your children to ultimately respect you and hold you up here,” she said as she lifted her open palm high signifying the position she wished her daughter held her at.
With such a moment of sincerity, self-realization and integrity one could not help but sense a deepness, the kind not found in the shallows of the six o’clock newscast.
There is something more there, with her open personality there always seems to be a larger dialogue waiting to follow moments like these, such as conversations about her upbringing and religious background.
“I got saved!”
Garza is a baptized Catholic and grew up with Christian roots. She mentions her change in religion when she was teenager from Catholic to Southern Baptist.
“I got saved,” said Garza, holding out her arms and also holding out the ‘a’ in saved creating a hum out of the word. She made friends with member of First Baptist Church in McAllen and converted to a Baptist. She attended a Baptist church for seven years.
“I enjoyed that part of my life. I used to go to Bible classes in Houston — I used to actually give Bible classes,” said Garza with a cheerful smile.
“And then after I got married, I decided to go back my Catholic roots,” Garza said she believes in saints and the Virgin Mary. She loves Catholicism. It shows too.
Garza keeps a portrait of Bishop Flores, a Monsignor of Corpus Christ when she met him; he is a beloved friend of her mother-in-law. Flores presided over the funeral of Garza’s father-in-law where she heard him speak.
“I just got such a kick out his way of speaking,” said Garza of Flores who was sent to Detroit where he became the first Hispanic bishop in the country just a month after her father-in-law’s funeral.
“Growing up in the Projects was the best time in my life.”
Garza’s reflections of the past are mostly those in her childhood. She brings back the fond memories of growing up in the Retama Projects in McAllen.
“I grew up in the Retama Projects,” said Garza pumping her fist with pride. “Yes sir. Growing up in the Projects was the best time in my life.”
Garza recalls her childhood as being one of the happiest times of her life.
“They used to irrigate the whole place. It used to turn into a big ol’ canal,” said Garza about playing with her friends in the water.
Her childhood wasn’t all smiles. They were a poor family. Her mother never finished high school and her father didn’t go to college, but both continually pushed Garza to get a higher education.
Garza speaks very highly of her mother and what she taught her growing up.
“She showed us all the love that a mom could possible show,” said Garza, “She taught me love, real love.”
Garza does display a kindness and a love where she works. She especially expresses this passion in her work.
Future Plans and Hopes
Garza had just finished wrapping up a Breast Cancer Awareness special she had worked on alone that brought in high ratings for the 6 o’clock newscast. The effort was called “Breaking the Barriers” that aims to help surpass the average number of Breast Cancer checkups.
Garza works solo on many projects. She said it is alone that she does her best work. Garza has been anchoring the evening news since 2000. Aside from anchoring she will go out and report stories. She is very much dedicated to her job and respects the leadership.
“It starts at the top,” said Garza about what keeps the ambition and drive alive at Channel 5 News, “We have tremendous leadership here and that’s why we’re number one. That’s what sets us apart from the other newscasts, because we all love to work here.”
She hopes the numbers and ratings continue to grow for Channel 5 News. She has an inkling that the Rio Grande Valley will no longer be considered a “trainer’s market” and the area will become a profitable news making region.
“That’s my hope for the station. It grew from a tiny little spec on the map and now — Channel 5 has put the Valley on the map,” said Garza with certain air of pride.
And she has much to be proud of. Her nearly 30 years of working at the station has shown her dedication and professionalism in her field.
She has become a household name in the Valley and a popular Emcee for various events and charities across the Rio Grande.
Throughout the years of her public career Letty Garza has earned more than just the title of Evening Anchor for Channel 5 News. She’s much more multifaceted than is perceived — even by HDTV. She’s a loving mother, a happy wife, a practicing Catholic, an advocate for Breast Cancer Awareness and a genuine, sincere open book with substantial dialogue of stories upon stories to tell stories about.