Who gets to tell their stories on air? It’s certainly not the people who speak with an accent that is considered uneducated, alien, and “not easily understood.”
The pressures that news anchors of color face to code-switch are both overt and implicit, as Chenjerai Kumanyika indicated in 2015 in Transom. He opens with this description of his first public radio story: “As I read the script back to myself while editing, I realized that as I was speaking aloud I was also imagining someone else’s voice saying my piece.” With the long history of racism in public media that includes creating and privileging the white “Broadcast English,” it’s not surprising that too many podcasters are re-creating toxic and oppressive systems, including normalizing the white voice.
If you don’t believe me, take a look at the podcasts that dominate the best-of lists for most major media outlets or line-ups for podcasting conferences or audience reviews of podcasters of color and how they “can’t understand” their speech. Think about how we conceptualize podcasting: as a vehicle for white men sitting around a microphone to give their opinions. That idea inherently replicates toxic structures and that’s why the whole concept of a singular “podcast voice” is so problematic. There’s no such thing! The impression that there is has been built by white supremacy.
Thankfully, there are more and more podcasters of color. Latinx stories, in particular, have been finding their home in audio, calling back to a rich history of oral, familial storytelling and chisme. Below are eleven Latinx podcasts that are doing the work of putting Latin American and immigrant stories front and center, told in our own voices and to our own rhythms.
Music is communication, and Radio Menea wants to delight in and analyze Latin American music’s vibrancy. Verónica Bayetti Flores and Miriam Zoila Pérez are two queer, Latinx friends with music tastes that converge and diverge at the precise intervals that make their episodes lush with variety. From the importance of the ballad to powerful women of reggaetón to what makes a boy band a boy band, Verónica and Miriam get into musicality, queer feminist theory, racism and classism, and music history’s crossovers with politics Their unabiding love for Latin American music of all kinds is a beautiful bridge between the real dance party and American radio’s endless plays of “Despacito.”
Shakespeare can tell more stories than you think, as heard in Salvadoran playwright Meme García’s House of sueños, a five-act audio adaptation of Hamlet with the Seattle Shakespeare Company. Protagonist Rina returns home five years after her father’s disappearance to attend the wedding of her mother and stepfather. Until Amelia tells her about the shadows lurking in the attic, Rina thinks she’ll be the main source of trouble at the disdainful event. Moving in and out of Spanish and English without missing a beat, House of sueños is a harrowing exploration of intergenerational trauma and mental health, including a haunted house that will feel very familiar to many immigrant families. It’s also valuable proof that Shakespeare is not just for native English speakers.
Juleyka Lantigua-Williams, journalist and founder of production company Lantigua Williams & Co., hosts this advice show for the children of immigrants, tackling the conversations that are so difficult to address with our parents. Public media loves to talk about immigrants and immigrant families, but too often cater their conversations to a white audience. Lantigue-Williams does the opposite, providing crucial grounding for How to Talk to [Mamí & Papí] about Anyting in a supportive, critical ethos as she and her guests break down cultural values, communal history, and toxic behaviors.
Brenda González and Ana Sheila Victorino bring the force of their careers in civil rights organizing, coaching, and leadership development to empower their Latinx audience in balancing political events and pop culture news con calma. Tamarindo Podcast is a truly cathartic listen, especially when the hosts go through the basura segment, disposing of people and concepts, such as Ted Cruz and the American dream. González and Victorino provide that crucial combination of vent session and mindfulness practice to help their communities move through the world with a little more balance than they could find in the mainstream.
American imperialism (as well as white America’s uncritical and idealized approach to communism) obscures so much of the reality of Cuba and its diaspora. Carmen and Fryda, both Cuban-Americans who left Cuba in the 90s, use their own personal stories as a way to talk about science, politics, and culture on the island and across the community in teikirisi. But this isn’t just about setting the record straight; it’s about sharing language and sound, and discovering the gems within Cuban Spanish that might lead you to loving the gems in your own Spanish too.
Imperialism and settler-colonialism has erased the true, ancient histories of hundreds of cultures around the world. Puerto Rico, one of the still extant American colonies of the twenty-first century, is the focus of the young adult fiction podcast Timestorm. Written and produced by NYC-based Puerto Rican artists Dania Ramos and Michael Aquino, Timestorm follows twelve-year-old twins Alexa and Beni Ventura as they become time-traveling witnesses of the people who have left their mark on Boricua heritage but have gone ignored or been erased by those in power. Timestorm shows and reveals the value of heritage, including the parts that have been oppressed and silenced, making it essential art, particularly within communities and families of color.
Who says you can’t deliver food journalism with humor? Recetario sonoro guides audiences longingly through some favorite dishes and recipes, like baklava or Canadian poutine, until hitting upon an endangered ingredient that we probably don’t realize is in danger of disappearing. Creators Rodrigo Rodríguez and Maru Lombardo, based in Colombia, discuss the reality about climate change, industrialization, and human consumption and their effects on the ongoing existence of things dietary staples and they do it with a sense of humor.
Sometimes you need a little bit of magic to light the way. Cuban-American creator Lisette Alvarez’ fiction podcast Kalila Stormfire is set in an alternate United States where magic is regarded seriously and regulated. The protagonist Kalila is a practicing witch and healer whose small business helping others with their magical, emotional, and physical problems is under threat by a mysterious entity. Currently, in its final, third season, this story sprawls out from the small business into the big city as Kalila herself heals and grows.
Chilean journalists and producers Catalina May and Martín Cruz are the power behind Las Raras, a Spanish-language podcast about freedom, rebellion, and the people who shatter harmful norms in order to achieve true and lasting social change. May and Cruz are conscientious documentarians and producers, especially during times of upheaval like the Chilean protests in 2019 and 2020, aware of the power of sound and voice. Spanish speakers need more access to journalism and memories like this, and Las Raras’ strength is in showing the complexity to la lucha.
Estephanie and Lina are two Bronx-born, Dominican Afro-Latinx who unpack the baggage of living in the world for themselves, for the marginalized folks in their audience, and for anyone trying to build a more inclusive world. Every episode, they talk about politics and culture, and break down one topic like the presence of anti-Blackness in different communities of colors or how to show up for each other without using the tools of white supremacy. At its core, Bag Ladiez embraces vulnerability and radical empathy as important means for dismantling settler-colonialism and white supremacy. Latinx voices carry a lot of baggage from our histories, and Estephanie and Lina are doing the work here to help us unpack it.
Produced in both English and Spanish by the rising star of Latin American podcast production, Futuro Media with WNYC Studios, La Brega is a seven-part series all about the Boricua phrase “la brega.” Deeply rooted in personal stories and set in the collision between infrastructure, economics, colonialism, family dynamics, and politics, La Brega explains the richness of life in Puerto Rico, including its semantics, especially during a time of austerity. Hopefully, more investigative and narrative journalism work about Latin Americans will come out in Spanish as well as English, finally and genuinely centering those they’re talking about.
This post has been corrected. Teikirisi’s host is Fryda, not Friday.