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Las Raras

It's been a year of protest, not just in America but around the world. In Chile, citizens have spent well over the past twelve months — before the pandemic, and through it — demonstrating to demand change to their national constitution, originally established by the dictator Augusto Pinochet thirty years ago. It’s in this environment that Las Raras, a Spanish-language narrative podcast telling stories of freedom and liberation, launched its latest season, which in part focuses on documenting that movement. In this week's episode, Nick talks with the duo behind Las Raras, Catalina May and Martin Cruz, about the show's creation, why they focus on stories of outsiders, and the future of Spanish-language podcasts.

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Servant of Pod Las Raras Episode 27

Sun, 1/3 4:00PM • 24:55


stories, podcast, people, las, migrants, spanish, catalina, freedom, country, chile, pandemic, outsiders, understand, year, producers, voting, audio, wanted, important, record


unknown, 911 Operator, Catalina May, Martín Cruz, Nick Quah

unknown 00:09

[Various Protestors Chanting: Gustavo, escucha tu lucha y nuestra lucha. (Gustavo, hears your fight, and hears our fight.)

La manifestación era completamente pacifica, y sin embargo- (The protest was completely peaceful, however-)

Loud bangs and screaming in the background.

-empezaron a disparar. Hijos de p*ta. Malditos. Nos están tirando gas. Nos están disparando. (-they started shooting. F*cking assh*les. D*mn them. They are throwing gas. They are shooting at us.)

(coughing and more screaming)]

Nick Quah 00:39

You don't need to be fluent in Spanish to understand what's happening here, because it's similar to what Americans have been hearing this year, too: protests calling for change. Podcasters Martín Cruz and Catalina May wanted to document what was happening in the streets of their city--Santiago, Chile--but also what was happening in homes across their country.

Martín Cruz 01:02

After the first protests--demonstrations, riots, whatever--we started to see people going outside to meet their neighbors, to start creating communities, and started to think about the new country we wanted to build. And a lot of solidarity. It created a new sense of community. That was amazing.

Catalina May 01:27

It was like the most beautiful and epic thing that I believe ever... Like, you couldn't believe how strong you felt, that you were part of our community. I never, never felt that before.

Nick Quah 01:42

These personal stories of freedom and liberation are at the heart of their podcast, Las Raras. From LAist Studios, this is Servant of Pod. I'm Nick Quah. This week: how two Chilean producers are paving the way for narrative nonfiction podcasts in South America.

Catalina May 02:17

[Historias de libertad. Sus protagonistas y sus paisajes sonoros. Esto es Las Raras Podcast.

(Stories of liberty. Its protagonists and its sonorous landscapes. This is Las Raras Podcast.) ]

Nick Quah 02:28

For English-speaking podcast listeners, Las Raras may seem, structurally, a little familiar. It's a narrative nonfiction show with dynamic sound design. We've been getting stuff like this in the English-speaking audio world for years--Radiolab, This American Life, the BBC's Short Cuts--but for Spanish-speaking podcast listeners, Las Raras is unique--especially when they started back in 2015.

Martín Cruz 02:52

I was very new to this. I mean, I first heard the word "podcast" from Cata that year, you know? She was listening to Serial at the time and she was fascinated, obviously. She wanted to have a project, and she wanted to create something, and since she was a journalist and I was an audio engineer, a podcast was the perfect combination of our...

Nick Quah 03:21

So, it's a way to work with each other. [Laughter]

Martín Cruz 03:23

Yeah, "let's create something together." And a podcast is perfect: a project of our own, in our own way. And doing whatever we wanted, tell the stories we wanted, in the way we wanted, so a podcast, in a way, was perfect for that.

Nick Quah 03:43

"Las Raras" can be translated as "the outsiders," which perfectly encapsulates the stories Catalina and Martín like to tell. But it also describes how they see themselves.

Martín Cruz 03:54

I think that the protagonists that we seek are usually outsiders in a way; people that somehow are resisting the norms or challenging the status quo, and fighting for social justice. Also, their stories are not usually represented in mainstream media. So in that way also they are outsiders. I mean, we look for stories that are, a lot of the times, very intimate stories, very personal stories. And usually, these stories are in the margins of society, maybe, and also the media. So that's why we think "the outsiders," it's a good translation to our name.

Catalina May 04:42

Yeah, they are stories of resistance in general. And we call them... Our slogan is "stories of freedom," but that, sometimes, it's confusing for people in the US. We understand that you think of freedom in a quite different way as we do, but you can understand them as stories of resistance.

Nick Quah 05:03

So how would you define freedom?

Martín Cruz 05:05

Ah, I don't know, it's difficult because it's a very subtle nuance, I would say, how people look for another way of doing things, sometimes with very small decisions, but sometimes very radical decisions. So there's that kind of freedom, like to step away from norms, or what is expected.

Catalina May 05:31

Yeah, to fight social impositions, in a way, and find your own ways to live with dignity. And that's always challenging as well. Freedom for us is freedom of living the way you think is right, that is not necessarily the way that society says is right.

Nick Quah 05:55

Fighting the establishment is at the heart of Las Raras. But it's also something Catalina and Martín are experiencing in their own lives, especially this year. They joined Chileans all around the country as they took to the streets to demand change to their National Constitution, which was established by the dictator Augusto Pinochet 30 years ago. They decided to document it as much as they could, even through the pandemic.

Martín Cruz 06:20

It's been an amazing experience, but a very tough experience. Because when this all started, in October 2019, and we saw everybody going out to protest, to demonstrations to ask for social change, to ask for a new constitution, to ask for a new way of conceiving our country, our society. That was amazing, to experience this collective feeling. But at the same time it was very hard because the police brutality, the repression, was brutal. You know, a lot of people lost their eyes, literally, by the police shots. A lot of people died. We had a curfew. So that brings the ghost of the dictatorship as well. So we have these two mixed feelings: excitement, but fear or something like... That was so hard.

Catalina May 07:25

And also, it gave us so much sense of how important our work as podcast producers is. In general, our stories, as we were saying before, are intimate stories of resistance, but when these social uprisings started, we said, "Okay, so this is the story of freedom, la historia de libertad, of our country. So we have to record this. We have to report this," and we have been doing it, and it has been so important for us. We feel the urgency of being on the streets, of talking to people, of participating into this process. It has been great.

Nick Quah 08:06

Catalina and Martín produced a special three-part miniseries around the social uprising called Trienta Años, or "30 Years." In the series, they included stories from protests, but also community building, all leading up to the day everything would be decided: voting day.

Catalina May 08:24

Votando hoy. Me toca. (Voting today. It’s my turn.)

Martín Cruz 08:36

¿Hola, que tal? (Hi, How are you?)

Catalina May 08:36

Hay voy. Gracias. (I’m up. Thank you.)

Estoy entrando. Voy a votar, que emoción. (I’m entering. I’m going to vote, how exciting.)

Martín Cruz 08:36

Estoy entrando a mi cabina. (I’m entering to my booth.)

Catalina May 08:36

“Registro National 2020. Quiere una Constitución nueva?” (National Registry 2020. Do you want a new constitution?) Por su puesto. Apruebo. (Of course. Approve.)

unknown 08:36

A cacophony of various people: Apruebo…Apruebo…Apruebo… (Approve…Approve…Approve…)

Catalina May 09:00

Estamos en Plaza Dignidad. Ha sido un día muy emocionante. No sabemos los cómputos finales todavía, pero ya se habla de una paliza. Arraso el apruebo, arraso la Convención Constitucional. Nosotros estamos muy felices, así que es un día para celebrar. (We are at Plaza Dignidad. It has been an emotional day. We don’t know the final results yet, but there are talks of winning. Smashing with approvals, smashing for the Conventional Constitution. We are very excited, so its a day to celebrate.) ]

Martín Cruz 09:19

We wanted to record the whole process of voting, so I'm not usually in the episodes. You usually hear only Catalina's voice, but we wanted to show... To make it fun. So we both went to vote, with our lavalier microphone recording everything, and sending messages between each other. And what you can hear there is the two of us, voting at the same time, saying the same words: “apruebo”—"I approve”—to change the Constitution. And then what you can hear are the counting of the votes, in a school, and then people celebrating in the center of the city. And we went there to show and record this collective feeling of joy, you know? Was amazing, it was amazing.

Catalina May 10:12

We didn't know that so many people were gonna vote that day, because people have not been voting in the elections lately. And we are in the middle of the pandemic, as well, so that was difficult. There was uncertainty about that day. We were not sure that we were going to win. I mean, we knew that we were going to win, but we didn't know that it was going to be such a huge, huge difference. I mean, 80%. That's related with mainstream media, as well. Mainstream media here belongs to the elites. And they were telling us this country's very divided, "we are almost like in a social... A war." But we saw that that wasn't real. Like 80% of people wanted to change the constitution. So when we knew about that, it was so exciting, and we were there to record it.

Nick Quah 11:11

Coming up: how Las Raras arrived in America.

Nick Quah 11:27

In 2019, Las Raras was chosen to be in the first class of the Google Podcast Creators Program. And this year, Las Raras won an award from the Third Coast International Audio Festival for an episode made with producer Dennis Maxwell.

Martín Cruz 11:41

We wanted to tell a story about the humanitarian crisis in the border. We didn't know what particular story, but something related to that issue. And we started to talk with Dennis. And so together we started looking for a protagonist, or an institution doing something to help the migrants crossing the borders, so Dennis found these artists—that is, a Colombian artist that lives in Tucson, Arizona—and this guy puts crosses in the exact places where bodies of dead migrants have been found in the desert. He went over there and went to the desert with him to put a cross, and in the process in which we were reporting this story, we came across a piece in the New York Times in which they use these voices of migrants, that when they call the 911, you know, asking for help when they are lost in the desert. So we're starting to do the same process, to ask for these phone calls to the Pima County, to the sheriff department. And after like a month, we got more than 200 phone calls, so we started to go over... Through them and, I mean, this is an amazing material, it's like, made for podcasts in this way. It's only audio, you know? And this is the real testimonies of these people that are lost in the desert. So this was, for us, like the perfect material to work with to show the stories, the struggle behind these journeys, from firsthand. So it's very hard material, but it's amazing at the same time.

911 Operator 13:32

911, where is your emergency?

Woman 13:40

(crying) Estoy perdida. En el-desierto. En Sonora. Por favor necesito ayuda. (I’m lost. In the desert. In Sonora. Please, I need help.)

911 Operator 13:40

Are you lost en desierto?

Woman 13:40

Si. (Yes.)

911 Operator 13:43

Okay, uno momento for interpreter. [Dial tone, dialing sounds]

911 Spanish Operator

911, cual es tu emergencia? (911, what is your emergency?)

Man 13:43

Si, necesito ayuda. (Yes, I need help.)

911 Spanish Operator

¿Estas solo o esta alguien contigo? (Are you alone or is someone with you?)

Man 13:43

Si estoy solo. (Yes, I’m alone.)

Man 2 13:43

Somos quatro. (We are four.)

Man 3 13:43

Con mi esposa. (With my wife.)

Man 4 13:43

Somos tres. (We are three.)

Man 5 13:43

Somos cinco personas. (We’re five people.)

911 Spanish Operator

Y de que país es usted? (And from what country are you from?)

Various 13:43

De Guatemala. / Mexico. / El Salvador. / Nicaragua.

Man 6 13:43

Yo voy para los Estados para buscar buena vida porque estoy muy pobre. (I am going to the States to look for a better life because I’m very poor.)

Man 7 13:43

Yo solo por necesidad vengo. (It’s only because I have need.)

911 Spanish Operator

¿Cuantos días tienen en el desierto ya? (How many days have you been in the desert already?)

Man 7 13:43

Ahorita ya va por cuatro días. (Right now, this is my fourth day.)

Man 8 13:43

Pero el coyote nos abandono aqui en el desierto. (But the coyote left us, here in the desert.)

Woman 2 13:43

Me dejaron perdida. (They left me, lost.)

Man 8 13:43

Encontré un señor de inmigración y le conte mi historia y no hizo nada. No me arrestó ni nada. Solo me dejo ir solo. (I found a man from immigration and I told him my story and he didn’t do anything to me. He didn’t arrest me or anything. He just let me go, alone.)

911 Spanish Operator

¿Y no tiene nada de agua? (And you don’t have any water?)

Woman 2 13:43

(crying) Amiga, no tengo nada de agua. (My friend, I have no water.)

Man 7 13:43

Traigo una poquita de la que agarre cuando llovió. (I have a little bit, that I got when it rained.)

Man 8 13:43

Necessito agua. Agua. Helada porfa. (I need water. Water! Ice cold, please.)

Man 9 13:43

Tengo cinco dias de no comer. (I have five days without eating.)

Man 10 13:43

No e comido hase tres dias. (I haven’t eaten for three days.)

Various 13:43

Me doble el pie. / Mi mano se quebro. / (agonizing screams) /Ya me estoy muriendo. bueno? bueno? Me estoy muriendo. Me estoy muriendo./ (crying) Ya no se que hacer. Estoy vomitando sangre. / Mi compañero ya esta muerto. (I twisted my ankle. / I broke my hand./ (agonizing screams) / I am dying. Hello? Hello? I am dying. I am dying. / (crying) I don’t know what to do anymore. I am vomiting blood. / My friend, he’s already dead.)

Catalina May 15:11

It was kind of telling the story of migrants, but from outside, like looking at these stories from outside. So for us it was really important to get those voices to tell the story from inside as well. You know, we're not just observers, we want to show you the story, in the most real way of it, which is very hard. But we need to show this because it's so important. As Latinos, we are horrified about this. And we went a lot to the US last year because of the Google Podcast Creator Program. So we were very close to these stories last year. So we really wanted to show this material. I think it helps to bring the stories closer to people's hearts, because lots of people, they don't like migrants who are illegally entering the country, right? But I think that when you listen to their voices and their struggles, you can understand them better.

Nick Quah 16:18

Showcasing the voices of people forgotten or ignored by the mainstream is a big part of what Las Raras works to do. What was new, for this and several other stories in the latest season of the podcast, was working with other producers.

Catalina May 16:32

I want to explain that, in the Spanish-speaking world, there are not many audio producers, because it's a new medium. So there is not a long tradition of audio production in Spanish--I mean, in the style that we work, documentary-style.

Martín Cruz 16:53

In Chile, for example, that I can say, at least, we don't have public radio. So we don't have that kind of tradition, and that mindset the US has. So radio stations, for example, here are owned by a handful of, of, um...

Nick Quah 17:15


Martín Cruz 17:17

Corporations, yeah. And obviously, it's mostly the power for people that own the media. So things tend to get stuck, in a way, and always try to reproduce the things that get you money. So obviously, podcasting isn't in that perspective--at first, at least. Now, they are realizing that there is something here that it's worth it to explore, but they tend to resist against that change.

Catalina May 17:52

We have a strong tradition of storytellers here in Latin America, but it's mostly written.

Nick Quah 18:00

So how has the Spanish-speaking podcast world changed, or evolved, since you launched Las Raras back in 2015?

Catalina May 18:10

I would say a lot. There was almost nothing when we started. I'm gonna say this, because I think it's real. We crossed paths very early in our story with Martina Castro from Adonde Media, and she has been so important in the developing of the Spanish-speaking podcast industry and community. She created Podcasteros, which is this community of podcast producers in Spanish. She started EncuestaPod, which was the first survey to understand the Spanish-speaking podcast listeners. And so we started to understand that we were not like islands, there were other people doing this too. And at the same time, the industry started to grow, like mainstream media started to understand that they can try to have their own podcasts. So we are having more podcasts now--not only independent podcasts, but podcasts with more budget, for example. Sadly, I think that doesn't translate into a really high-quality...

Nick Quah 19:22


Catalina May 19:23

Yeah. I mean, especially thinking in mainstream media, they are putting money into creating podcasts, but I think that those podcasts are not good enough. I think there's no real understanding of the potentialities of this medium, but it's starting to grow and things are starting to appear, so it's growing. It's growing.

Nick Quah 19:45

So do you think podcasting is too America-centric, or too centered around English speakers?

Martín Cruz 19:52

I think we, as Latin Americans, look to the US a lot, in terms of culture. So the US having a more developed industry makes us look that way a lot. And, you know, we get all the movies from the US, we get a lot of information, and the trends come always from the US, but, obviously, that comes with the fact that we don't have an industry yet. So, yeah, if we want to listen to sound-rich audio fiction, we have to go to look for an English podcast, you know? We don't have that in Spanish yet, so developed. So, I guess, in the process of us creating an industry and having more shows, we could start looking away from that as a reference and starting to create our own ecosystem and our own reference.

Nick Quah 20:59

Tell me about your latest season of the show.

Catalina May 21:03

Considering that we are in the middle of a pandemic, we really wanted to show what has been happening this year, but we didn't want to talk about the pandemic especially. But we wanted to tell stories about the issues that have been important during this month. So our stories are not about the COVID crisis, but they are happening in that context. And, also, we were trying to tell stories, as we said before, from different countries, so we have a story from Argentina, from Mexico, Colombia, Spain, the US, and Chile. It's a kind of small system of only six stories, but we think of it as a boutique system, because the stories have lots of work behind, and they are very beautiful. We have really put lots of work and effort in these six stories. And we wanted to keep developing our narrative, you know? We are really trying to make more complex narratives. We are really trying to use sound as our main narrative and aesthetic element. And we're trying to make shorter stories as well. We want our listeners to take time to really listen to our stories--hopefully with headphones, hopefully sitting with their eyes closed. I know this is maybe not realistic, but we are producing these stories for that. So we're not going to ask them for an hour of their lives; we're only going to ask them for 20 minutes of their lives, to listen to a very strong story. So that's what we're trying to do this season.

Martín Cruz 22:54

We are always trying to reinvent ourselves, as well, to challenge our own narratives, our own structures, and to try new things. So we are playing with the structure of the story, we're playing with the use of archives, with the use of music, we created a lot of new music for the season, and a lot of that music was very different from what we were doing before. So we're always trying to push our own boundaries, a little bit, in all terms, you know? So I think you can tell something of that when you listen to our new season. I hope. [Laughter]

Nick Quah 23:41

Thank you both so much for this conversation.

Martín Cruz 23:44

Thank you.

Catalina May 23:45

Thank you for this invitation. We're really very honored. We hope we did okay. [Laughter]

Nick Quah 24:06

Servant of Pod is written and hosted by me, Nick Quah. You can check out more episodes at The show is produced by Andrea Asuaje, Jessica Alpert, and John Perotti at Rococo Punch. Web design by Andy Cheatwood and the digital and marketing teams at Southern California Public Radio. Logo and branding by Leo G. Thanks to the team at LAist Studios, including Kristen Hayford, Taylor Coffman, Kristen Muller, and Leo G. Servant of Pod is a production of LAist Studios.

This program is made possible in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, a private corporation funded by the American people.