Latino-led podcasts finally hit the market

Erick Galindo, from southeast Los Angeles, wanted to create a podcast that his Mexican parents would enjoy.

Galindo, 38, was already an award-winning writer and documentarian when he made his podcast debut in 2020 as co-creator of “Savagefor LAist Studios, the podcast division of Southern California Public Radio.

But it wasn’t until the February 1 release of “Idolo: The Ballad of Chalino Sánchez— a bilingual murder mystery that examines the freewheeling life and death of the beloved regional Mexican folk legend — that Galindo’s mother put her phone on the kitchen counter one evening and, as she was doing the dishes, listened to his first podcast.

“Chalino lived a few blocks from where we lived when I was a kid,” says Galindo, whose family immigrated to California from Sinaloa, Mexico, then migrated throughout southeast Los Angeles before moving to California. moving to Downey in the 1990s. “He was an outlaw. His music captured this microcosm of LA at that time, the same way Biggie Smalls did for Brooklyn.

Hosted and narrated by Galindo in English, and Mexican journalist Alejandro Mendoza in Spanish, the eight-part “Ballad of Chalino Sánchez” tells the story of the “Godfather of Narcocorridosor drug ballads, with the gripping tension of vintage black radio. Sánchez, known for smuggling migrants and his ties to the Sinalo drug cartels, sang songs about their dirty deeds for years, until one night in 1992 he was shot dead after a concert in Culiacan. Thirty years later, his murder remains unsolved.

“Ídolo: the ballad of Chalino Sánchez” is a bilingual eight-episode podcast.


Produced in collaboration with Latin multimedia companies Sonoro Media and Futuro Studios, this podcast is the first of several episodes of “Ídolo”, a Sonoro series dedicated to Latin pop culture icons. It’s also the latest in a series of trending Latin music podcasts that have emerged over the past year, from “Loud: The History of Reggaeton” to “Everything for Selena.”

And as the popularity of Latin music explodes far beyond the Hispanic community, podcasters see opportunities for further growth. For example, see the recent rise of Disney’s 2021 “Encanto” soundtrack, which spent five weeks at No. 1 on the Billboard 200, or Bad Bunny’s upcoming stadium tour, El ‘Ultimo Tour del Mundo, which became the fastest tower for sale on Ticketmaster since 2018.

“We bring to life so many stories of Latinx writers who wouldn’t usually have their ideas developed by Hollywood because they wouldn’t be taken seriously despite the huge public demand for Latinx content,” says Camila Victoriano, co – founder. and Head of Partnerships at Sonoro. After helping develop LA Times audio programming, including 2017’s hit “Dirty John” podcast, Victoriano co-founded Sonoro with an all-Latin team, including former Walt Disney Company and Gimlet Media producers. Sonoro currently has 10 of the top 100 podcasts in Latin America, including the #1 Spanish podcast in the world,”Legendary Legends,” a comedy series that riffs on true crime and the paranormal.

“The storytellers we support today can become the media and entertainment industry leaders of tomorrow,” she says.

Today’s most popular podcast hosts in the United States are predominantly white and/or English-speaking. Topping Apple and Spotify’s podcast charts, “My Favorite Murder” and “Serial” take on established news programs like NBC’s “Dateline” and The New York Times’ “The Daily,” as well as talk shows. conservative shows from Ben Shapiro and Joe Rogan. In 2015, an internal study conducted by NPR reported that 67% of people who listened to his podcasts were white.

Given that the Hispanic and/or Latino population in the United States reached 62.1 million in 2020, up from 50.5 million in 2010, according to the Pew Research Report — podcasters are incentivized to better engage listeners in these communities, as Galindo did for his parents.

“For so long, podcasts have been envisioned and created for this very small group of white, affluent people,” says Marlon Bishop, vice president of podcasts at Futuro Studios, the new creative wing of Futuro Media Group. Based in New York, the nonprofit multimedia news organization was founded in 2010 by journalist Maria Hinojosa, host of “Latino USA,” the longest-running national Latino news program on public radio.

As “Latino USA” amassed a sizable audience thanks to NPR, Futuro expanded its digital footprint by partnering with the political website latin rebels and, later, producing limited series like the 2020 “Anything for Selena” podcast. In a clever fusion of investigative journalism and memoir, host Maria Garcia combined a critical analysis of singer Tejana’s cultural and commercial afterlife with memories of her own childhood in El Paso, told in English. and in Spanish.

“People tell us how the Spanish versions have helped their families connect with their interests,” says Garcia, now editor-in-chief at Futuro Studios. “It’s wonderful that my mother can understand the work I do.”

Garcia was editor of WBUR, Boston’s public radio station, when she first presented “Anything For Selena” to NPR in 2017. Futuro, as it turned out, also featured NPR on a podcast from Selena. Instead of dividing their audience’s attention with two competing podcasts, the producers joined forces.

“What we do is still relatively new and we continue to grow our audience,” says Bishop of Futuro. “There’s no point in being super competitive right now, in this industry.”

A woman and a man hold microphones and sing on stage.

Ivy Queen, left, seen here performing with Bad Bunny in 2020, hosts a hit Spotify podcast about the history of reggaeton.

(Andre Gombert/Los Angeles Times)

Julio A. Pabón, video producer at Spotify Studios, noticed Futuro’s growing dominance over all things Latin in the audio space. In 2019, he offered a deal with Futuro to co-create the podcast that became “Loud: The History of Reggaeton.” Hosted by Ivy Queen, the Puerto Rican matriarch of the genre, “Loud” gave a masterclass in what is perhaps the most misunderstood but most lucrative art form in Latin America today – as recounted Ivy and her peers in a fluent, quintessentially Caribbean mix of English. , Spanish and Jamaican patois.

“On Spotify alone, 328 million listeners listened to at least one reggaeton song in 2020, and we counted over 3.6 billion hours of reggaeton streamed that same year,” says Pabón. “Loud” charted in Australia, Canada, Spain, Great Britain, Mexico, Panama and, of course, the United States. For a music podcast, this is a major victory.

And yet, as Latino stories gain traction not just in the United States but on global platforms like Spotify, the question of how to responsibly represent these ethnic groups can be daunting. Creators express concern about painting their cultures with too broad a brush.

“While they were working on ‘Chalino,’ some people were like, ‘Do we want to tell another narco story?'” Galindo explains. “Of course, it’s unfortunate that most of the stories we hear about Latinos involve criminals. But if David Chase were to do six seasons of ‘The Sopranos’, we should have a space to talk about the people we grew up with. and the complexities of their humanity. When people say I can’t represent my culture because it doesn’t represent everyone? That’s how they keep our stories out of the mainstream.”

“History is history, and it’s not necessarily a positive story,” says reggaeton historian and podcaster Katelina Eccleston, who has viewed “Loud” and conducted artist interviews, particularly highlighting the emphasis on the black and working-class origins of the genre. “At the end of the day, maybe I don’t like J Balvin’s politics,” she adds, “but he’s important for the history of reggaeton.”

Yet the international success of “Selena,” “Loud,” and similar podcasts inspired other studios to follow suit.

Last June, industry giant iHeartMedia launched My Cultura, its Latin podcast network, featuring Lin-Manuel Miranda’s “In the Heights” explainer.El Suenito“, followed by a deep dive into reggaeton”The flow“and talk show”Chiquis and Chillhosted by banda-pop singer Chiquis Rivera.

Audible, in partnership with a new podcast company Fresh products, plans to release a bilingual Latin music series in the spring called “Punk in Translation: Latinx Origins”, an eight-part audio documentary chronicling the Latin American roots of punk rock – beginning with 60s garage rockers Los Saicos. and ? and the Mysterians, to today’s punks. Hosted by Tijuana No! singer Ceci Bastida, the podcast will feature interviews with luminaries such as Joan Jett, Julieta Venegas, Alice Bag, Jello Biafra of the Dead Kennedys and more.

“Hopefully podcasting will be a place where the rest of the entertainment industry and the media, for that matter, realizes they need to catch up,” says LA Times columnist and podcast host Gustavo Arellano. The Times”. Although he entered the radio business as a generalist, one of his most popular episodes, he notes, was a 2021 special on Vicente Fernandez, the late King of Ranchera.

“Latinos can make successful products, and we can make successful products on Latinos,” he adds. “So let’s invest in our stories.”

About Dawn Valle

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