By Kayla Haley
Cristina Puig had planned to study marketing at the University of Miami – until she took a television production class.
“I took this elective and I realized this is where I really belong,” Puig, 51, said. “I just realized that’s where my passion was.”
Puig then threw herself into communication. She switched her major to broadcast journalism with a minor in French, became a writer for The Miami Hurricane and began recording news briefs at UM’s radio station WVUM.
After graduating in 1985, she was hired as a reporter by the Spanish-language station WLTV 23. Puig is fully bilingual – she was born in Philadelphia, but her parents are Cuban and she grew up in Lima, Buenos Aires and San Juan. Looking to advance her career, she later freelanced sporadically, both English- and Spanish-language in Virginia, Texas and Illinois.
Then in 1991, she put her career on hold when she had her first child.
“I followed my passion, but once I had children, I took what I call a 14 year hiatus,” Puig said.
While she still would pick up the occasional freelance job, Puig was a full-time mother to her three children. Eight years ago, when her youngest child was in grade school, she moved back to Miami and decided to step back into the field.
“I wanted to make a comeback career knowing full well that I was that much older, 14 years older, and that a lot of younger people were behind me, and that the business had changed quite a bit,” Puig said.
Facing competition from bloggers and other freelancers, Puig dedicated herself to learning the newest technology while transitioning back into the workforce.
She began contributing stories to various news organizations— Univision, CNN, CNN Español, Reuters News Agency, CBS and Fox News Latino.
Then in 2014, she was hired by a start-up Telemundo channel in Tampa as the lead anchor for the 6 and 11 p.m. broadcasts. In September, the station aired its first local broadcast after a month of rehearsals.
“I don’t regret those years that I stayed home, raising my children, I don’t,” she said. “But I am feeling very fortunate that I got this second chance to pretty much pick up where I left off, and then some.”
She added that she was surprised by her new role — she had seen herself as a reporter, but not an anchor.
Her success – whenever it came – does not surprise her former instructor, Professor Mitch Shapiro, who remembers Puig as a young student with eager eyes as she hung on every word of a lecture.
“She was just always interested, genuinely interested in learning,” he said. “A lot of students are interested in passing a test, getting a grade, getting a job. Cristina was interested in all those things also, but she was really interested in learning.”
Making a comeback from her 14-year hiatus has changed Puig’s life and she hopes that she can inspire other women to pursue their passions and have a family.
“I want to be the example to my daughters and to today’s young women that you can have both,” Puig says.