Colorado Public Radio Podcast Explores Latino Heritage By Celebrating Stories From Everyday Life

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A Colorado Public Radio audience development initiative for Latino listeners has spawned a new podcast exploring cultural identity and heritage through stories about everyday life.

¿Whoen Are we?an eight-part series that released its first episode on Friday, grew out of the work of the Latino Audience Working Group, formed in early 2020 to guide CPR’s efforts to expand its reach to Denver’s Latino community.

CPR operates networks of news, classical and independent music stations and the Denverite digital news site from its headquarters in Centennial. Staff from across the organization participated in the group, which began by brainstorming ways to connect with Latino listeners.

“The project grew out of really personal conversations we had about our experiences as Latinos in the United States,” said Ana Campbell, Denverite’s editor and ¿Whoen Are we? and a member of the working group.

Nearly 30% of Denver’s population is Latino or Hispanic, according to July 2021 US Census Bureau estimates. Community is underrepresented in CPR news coverage and viewership, says Andrew Villegas, ¿Whoen Are we? editor and working group leader. CPR News’ radio audience in the Denver metro area is less than 10% Hispanic, according to Nielsen audience estimates that EP Brad Turner shared with Current.

“We all have this idea in our minds of what a public radio listener looks like and a public media consumer looks like, and that hasn’t necessarily been Latinos in the past,” Villegas said. “It’s about time that… we said, ‘Hey, we know you’re here. … We’re going to tell you the stories you want to hear.’”

The 12-staff working group began meeting monthly to discuss how CPR could reach and engage Latino listeners. The idea for the podcast was born out of these discussions.

Members agreed that the station needed to offer something different from the mainstream media narrative of Latino life in America: stories of people overcoming adversity tied to their Latino identity.

Ortega (Photo: Hart Van Denburg/CPR)

The podcasting world is full of mundane stories about white people, said May Ortega, host of CPR News and ¿Whoen Are we? She wanted the podcast to show that, despite the adversities they may face, Latinos also have mundane stories to share.

Marginalized communities are too often overrepresented, Campbell said. His goal is for the podcast to reflect the shared experiences of a new generation of Latinos.

Working on the podcast allowed Campbell to tap into her own heritage and cultural experience for the first time in the creative process, she said. Prior to this project, fluency in Spanish was her “party trick” in a professional setting.

“My background as a Latina informs the way I took notes and the way I edited the show, and that was a first for me,” Campbell said. “It really made me realize my worth.”

Research and audience development for the podcast began in the fall of 2020. The podcast team consisted of staff from CPR News and the Audio Innovations Studio, CPR’s podcasting and audio creation unit. Turner and CPR News editor Kevin Dale are the show’s EP.

To guide the editorial planning and development of the podcast, team members conducted one-on-one interviews with young Latinos. With the results of these conversations, the team began producing a pilot in the spring of 2021. At the end of the summer, the CPR gave the go-ahead for production of the first season of the podcast.

“Mini-revolution”

The podcast team wanted to focus on a conflict rooted in the identity and experience of Latin Americans – the idea that they are somehow not good enough for America or the country of their Latino heritage. , said Luis Antonio Perez, lead producer. This idea is summed up in the Spanish expression “Ni de aqui, ni de alla” (“Where are you from?”), which describes the feeling of not belonging to one or the other culture. It makes many people in Latino communities wonder, “Who am I?” Perez said.

Perez (Photo: Hart Van Denburg/CPR)

“It’s about identity, power and how our identities shape who we are and what we do,” Perez said. “[To do this] we talk a lot about the work that [folks] do or the passions they pursue.

The first episode of ¿Whoen Are we? exposes this by focusing on the identity struggles of Jon Barón, who followed his passion to become a brewer. Barón’s parents immigrated from Mexico, and he grew up in a family that bent on assimilating into American culture and traditions.

Barón’s parents were blue collar workers who wanted a different life for their children. They gave him an Americanized name and encouraged him to follow in the footsteps of his older siblings – a sister who became an associate dean at a university and a successful musician brother.

Barón worked in the service industry before going into brewing. He now specializes in making chicha and pulque, traditional Hispanic corn-based beers that allow him to reconnect with his heritage.

Upcoming episodes, which air every other Friday through the end of the summer, introduce listeners to everyday people with their own stories to share about Latino cultural heritage and identity.

The team shapes and refines each episode to include details that sound just like relatable Latin American experiences, Campbell said, noting that CPR executives defer to reporters producing ¿Whoen Are we? on these decisions.

“To me, it’s kind of a revolution, a mini-revolution, in our industry because, frankly, goalies are still predominantly white, predominantly male,” Campbell said. “And so having that kind of freedom and having that kind of confidence, I think, created a much more authentic product.”

“It’s your story. Nobody can tell your story better than you,” Ortega told his guests on ¿Whoen Are we?

“I hope when someone listens to these simple, everyday stories about things…like dancing or baseball or houseplants or whatever, they’re like, ‘Oh my God, you see ? It’s me,” Ortega said. “’I’ve never heard my story told this way, where it’s happy. I can use my passion or interest to feel closer to who I am or who I could be.

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