Broadcast journalist Mercedes Soler-Martinez has loved the news since she was a little girl in Chicago watching Barbara Walters. She has multiple Emmy and Peabody awards to show for her two decades at Univision and then CNN Español. Eventually, the entrepreneur bug bit, and she and her husband, radio executive Tom Martinez, founded their own radio and digital media company, Solmart Media, where she is president. Based in Sarasota since 2019 to tap into the growing Hispanic market, Solmart has three radio stations in nine Florida counties playing Mexican country music and producing Spanish-language content.
Soler-Martinez, 57, and her family fled Cuba when she was 12, and her passion for the United States is strong. Warm, open and vivacious, she tells the stories that her listeners need, such as how immigrant Spanish-speaking families can access remote learning for their children, how to take advantage of gifted programs and how to hold onto the Spanish language. She once offered a pregnant woman on her radio show a ride to the hospital because the father of the child had been deported after being stopped at a traffic light.
“Hispanics have always been here,” she says, as a reminder to the non-Hispanic American. “They didn’t come across the border 20 years ago to break immigration laws.”
Soler-Martinez sits on the boards of the Community Foundation of Sarasota County, the Ringling Museum and the Lakewood Ranch-based Affordable National Homeownership Coalition. “I’m always looking back to see who’s walking behind me so I can extend my arms and pull them forward,” she says.