Pepe Barreto made a name for himself as one of Southern California’s best-known Spanish-language media personalities.
He hosted a top-rated morning radio show on KLVE-FM (107.5) for 18 years and has worked as a community and entertainment reporter for Univison’s KMEX-TV Channel 34.
While growing up as the son of a soldier and housewife in the Peruvian capital of Lima, Barreto studied English and spent hours working on his voice intonation so that he could one day work in radio.
As a teenager, he began hanging out at a local radio station in hopes of persuading the managers to give him a job. When a deejay didn’t show up for work one day in 1963, the program director put the 16-year-old Barreto on the air. He did such an impressive job that the station hired him on the spot.
He worked for the Voice of America and U.S. Armed Forces Radio in Lima before immigrating to Los Angeles in the early 1970s. He worked at a number of TV and radio stations, in both English and Spanish, before finding his place at KLVE in 1985.
His career really took off in 1994 when the programming team of Bill Tanner and Pio Ferro refined KLVE's format of adult-contemporary music. Within months, Barreto's morning program was the top-ranked show in the market.
Barreto left KLVE to join rival station KXOL-FM (96.3) in 2004, but he lost his job there when KXOL became a bilingual reggaeton and hip-hop station the following year.
While still hosting his morning show at KLVE, he took a job as an entertainment reporter for KMEX-TV Channel 34 in 1993.
Apart from his work in entertainment, Barreto involved himself deeply in political issues affecting the Latino community. Barreto’s frequent on-air updates about immigration law had such an effect that congressional offices would sometimes call him first when a new bill was pending.
A deeply religious man, Barreto said he found God after making a dramatic recovery from injuries suffered in an accident that left him hospitalized for several months at age 19.