A New Wave of Latina Voices at NPR
By Christine Bolaños
American nonprofit media organization National Public Radio (NPR) is renowned for its groundbreaking and award-winning podcasts on a plethora of topics. At the helm of several of these podcasts are Latina audio storytellers who have redefined the industry and uncovered transformative stories that center audiences’ shared humanity. LATINA Style Magazine interviewed Anamaria Sayre of Alt.Latino, Jasmine Garsd of The Last Cup, and Sarah Gonzalez of Planet Money to learn about the behind-the-scenes podcasting process and how their Latinidad guides their voices.
For Anamaria Sayre, co-host of Alt.Latino, NPR’s pioneering radio show and podcast about Latino music and culture, storytelling is a way of life and pursuing audio storytelling was a natural career move.
“Storytelling is a huge part of Latino life,” she says. “Growing up in Southern California, it was a huge part of how my family exchanged our culture. We grew up with very strong Latinas in my family who pushed me and taught me what it meant to be driven and hustle, which I think is special and unique.”
Sayre works alongside Felix Contreras, who co-created and co-hosts the podcast, and who she describes as an “absolute legend” who has been
at NPR for over 20 years.
“I learn a lot from him every day and he’s also a really close friend,” Sayre shares.
Music is another huge part of the Latino culture, and it is why she is proud to help lead the podcast.
“Many of us feel connected to music,” she shares. “We make beautiful associations when you hear a song that reminds you of hanging out with your family or being at a backyard fiesta. I want our audience to understand why they feel connected to music and feel more included in their community because of that.”
One of Sayre’s proudest moments on the podcast was interviewing Fabi Reyna of Reyna Tropical in what she described as one of her most authentic, grounded, and unique conversations to date.
The Last Cup
Argentine-American NPR journalist Jasmine Garsd was the host of The Last Cup–a bilingual limited series about the intersection of soccer and the immigrant experience–that aired while Argentina won the 2022 World Cup.
Garsd’s love of storytelling began with her exposure to radio novelas where she gained an appreciation for the intergenerational love and connection to radio.
“Radio allows the audience to create its own landscape and characters. It’s something very imaginative,” Garsd says. “I fell in love with podcasting as a way to learn and explore immersive narrative.”
Two listeners wrote to Garsd to share that they incorporated The Last Cup into their curriculum for recently arrived asylum seekers. At first, Garsd thought the stories may be too sad for the new wave of migrants, but then she realized the podcast allows for nuanced tales of immigration that go beyond sensationalist headlines.
She believes soccer is an amazing vector toward peeling back the layers of the immigrant experience and it brings people together who understand they are not alone in having these feelings.
“I didn’t come in undocumented myself,” Garsd says. “But there are some universal experiences of the people who stay behind and the really complicated feelings toward the people who left. There’s also an immigrant’s really complicated feelings towards home; there’s nostalgia, resentment, the what ifs. (The podcast) allows for this complexity: the beauty, the ugliness, the emotion of what it means to be human and to go beyond the headline.”
Sarah Gonzalez, host and reporter with the award-winning podcast Planet Money, never envisioned herself as an economics reporter, but she says everything is about power and money.
“If you can understand economics, you can really understand the world around you,” she says.
Planet Money is an ensemble show where the hosts appeal to a large audience by following their own curiosities. They have been able to report on the economics of everything from vodka to record labels and sand.
In the episode, “Peak Sand,” Planet Money uncovered a story about a remote Jamaican beach that vanished overnight. The sand was white, powdery and Caribbean, and reportedly worth a million dollars. Sand detectives tried to find the stolen beach and Planet Money showed audiences how sand has become a resource worth stealing as it’s a key ingredient found in everything from glass to cell phones and concrete.
Gonzalez says if someone looks at sand and immediately thinks of what they learned on her episode, then she considers that a great success, and what Planet Money is all about.
Gonzalez, who grew up on the San Diego-Tijuana border, was the only Latina host at Planet Money for years before co-host Erika Beras joined the team.
“Aside from being very good at her job and being a great reporter, it’s great to have someone in your work life that you can talk to about bachata and use Spanish slang, and you don’t have to translate,” she says.