NAHJ honors and mourns the loss of former AP sports journalist, Luis Rigoberto Varela

(Washington, D.C.) – Luis Rigoberto Varela (Sr.), a nearly 40-year veteran correspondent of The Associated Press in Puerto Rico and a long-time international sports journalist, passed away on Tuesday night, June 23rd, at the age of 82. He died in a hospital in Ponce, Puerto Rico, where he was residing after complications from a recent bowel operation on June 11.

Born in Colón, in the province of Matanzas, Varela left Cuba in 1958 to settle in Puerto Rico. There, he dedicated himself to nearly 60 years in the field of journalism. Though he worked mainly as an AP general information reporter, his true passion and specialty were in sports journalism, especially baseball, basketball, and volleyball.

Attending and reporting coverage for his first Olympic Games in Montreal in 1976, Varela continued on to cover four more Olympic Games, including in Moscow in 1980, Los Angeles in 1984, Atlanta in 1996, and Sydney in 2000. Additionally, he was a regular reporter for the Pan American and Central American Games, as well as other events in the Caribbean.

Frequently sought out by athletes and leaders in the professional sports industry, Varela was a highly valued reporter with an undying work-ethic and record of prestigious journalistic achievements. He was especially admired for his boundless and diverse knowledge of sports stats and information.

Colleagues called him an “encyclopedia of sports knowledge” and an indispensable asset to the sports news community. During a time when the internet wasn’t available for quick and easy fact-checking, Varela was well-known for his expertise and served as the go-to resource for his sports news colleagues. His influence as a mentor and support to fellow journalists across all generations is evident not only in Puerto Rico, but throughout the entire United States and LATAM.

“Luis Varela and his zeal for sports journalism will be deeply missed.” said NAHJ President, Hugo Balta. “The journalism world has lost a profoundly passionate figure and role model, and though Luis lived a full life and will be remembered for his immeasurable contribution, we will mourn this loss of a true journalist.”

Father, journalist, and mentor, he is survived by his wife of 57 years, María, along with their three children, María Rosa, María del Carmen, and Luis (Jr.), and four grandchildren. He is soon to be cremated.

NAHJ cherishes the memory and honors the legacy of Luis Rigoberto Varela.


About the National Association of Hispanic Journalists (NAHJ) 

The National Association of Hispanic Journalists (NAHJ) is the largest organization of Latino journalists in the United States and dedicated to the recognition and professional advancement of Hispanics in the news industry. The mission of NAHJ is to increase the number of Latinos in the newsrooms and to work toward fair and accurate representation of Latinos in the news media. Established in April 1984, NAHJ created a national voice and unified vision for all Hispanic journalists. NAHJ has approximately 2,500 members, including working journalists, journalism students, other media-related professionals, and journalism educators. For more information please visit or follow on Twitter @NAHJ. 

Media Contact: 

BA Snyder
Veritas Group for NAHJ