TAMPA — Carlos Jose Peralta was the first voice on the air when Tampa Bay's first Spanish-language FM station debuted in 2005.
Peralta, 55, had been a popular radio personality on Spanish-language AM stations since 1977. But FM was something special.
"That was the dream we always had," Peralta said in Spanish. "We saw that as if we had graduated."
This week, Peralta lost his job as music director for 92.5 Maxima (WYUU-FM) owned by CBS radio.
Listeners say they've lost a voice for their community.
More than 300 people upset by the news sent Peralta Facebook messages, and some planned to protest his dismissal on Friday.
His cell phone battery gives out every two hours because of incoming messages and calls.
"The guy is an icon," said Tony Morejon, Hispanic affairs liaison for Hillsborough County government. "He's someone the community admires and someone who's always been there for the community."
The firing was unexpected, but Peralta wishes his colleagues the best, saying station managers were professional about it. Peralta said he and the station had different expectations.
On Friday, Peralta's attorney, Jose Toledo, reached an agreement between Peralta and the station. Peralta couldn't discuss the agreement.
Don Howe, market manager for CBS radio in Orlando and Tampa, couldn't be reached for comment.
For now, Peralta is exploring options that still involve radio.
Peralta came to Tampa from Cuba and was instantly smitten. He graduated from Robinson High School and went on to Hillsborough Community College. He lives with his mother in Town 'N Country.
"It's one of the few cities that is Hispanic from the heart," he said.
Radio for him is a way to entertain and help friends and neighbors.
He announced local news and toy drives for local hospitals. He told Hispanic listeners about job openings.
He played music they loved, whether it sounded more like Juan Luis Guerra or Daddy Yankee. He liked it all.
A few years ago, the station changed its name to 92.5 Maxima FM, and Peralta was switched from his afternoon show to join a morning show with younger radio personalities Albert Kinng and Ñeko. Peralta said they did a comedy show and he was the serious side that balanced out the show.
Taty Pastor of Lutz has been a fan of Peralta's for 14 years and considers his firing unjust.
She hasn't tuned into the station since then. She said she appreciated his music selection and straightforward delivery of local news.
Kinng and Ñeko make her laugh, she said, but they're a little rude so early in the morning when she takes her two teenagers to school.
"I think in Tampa what we want is a radio station we can all listen to without having to cover the ears of our children," said Pastor, 40, an assistant in the maintenance department at the University of South Florida.
A week ago, Grammy award-winning singer Elvis Crespo was on the morning show, with his wife, to promote his latest single. Albert Kinng and Ñeko asked about a 2009 incident when Crespo was accused of masturbating on a plane to Miami. Crespo walked out.
"I knew the question was a little strong for him," Peralta said.
Crespo returned after he cooled down. It was a question the radio hosts asked based on interest from listeners commenting on Facebook, Peralta said, but it's not one he would've asked.
They just have different styles.
And that's what fans will miss. But not for too long, he hopes.
"If God permits me, I hope to return soon," Peralta said. "I don't have the words to thank everyone who has supported me. The public's support has been the greatest, sweetest thing in my life."
Information from the Associated Press was used in this report. Ileana Morales can be reached at (813)226-3386 or email@example.com.