NPR podcast on Latino culture crosses over to radio

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An NPR podcast hatched from a friendship four years ago took a step in its evolution earlier this month, becoming a weekly radio show focused on Latino music and culture.

Edited down from the weekly podcast’s 40 minutes, the half-hour Alt.Latino debuted Oct. 2 and is airing on stations in four markets, including Denver and San Francisco.

Contreras interviews Santana

Alt.Latino‘s Felix Contreras interviews Carlos Santana for a show scheduled for November. The show uses music as a starting point for broader conversations. (Photo: Maggie Starbard)

The “alt” in the title refers to the show’s exploration of subjects that co-host and co-creator Jasmine Garsd sees as underreported by other media outlets. “We started off with a lot of indie music, but as the show grew we saw it more as delving deeper into Latin culture,” Garsd said. “There’s a lot of barely-scratching-the-surface kind of coverage right now of Latin culture. So what we’re doing is kind of alternative.”

Many episodes of the podcast have featured music in wide-ranging genres — including electronica, Puerto Rican hip-hop and Spanish post-punk — and Garsd and Felix Contreras, also co-host and co-creator, discussing the selections. Guest DJs, authors and actors also drop in for chats about Latino culture as seen through the lens of music.

Before launching the show, Contreras and Garsd were friends and colleagues at NPR — Garsd an intern with Tell Me More, and Contreras an arts reporter. As Garsd stopped by a vending machine near Contreras’s desk, the two would discuss books, music and the need for more Latino-focused programming on public radio. Their conversations produced a spark.

“We’d be talking about all of that, and at some point we’d always say, ‘We should do a podcast about this,’” Garsd said.

The pair launched the podcast in 2010 and soon after took advantage of an NPR initiative to fund new podcasts.

“We had been messing around with the pilot,” Contreras said. “And NPR put out the request for proposals because they had money for new podcasts and they wanted to reach out to underserved audiences.”

As the show has matured, it has become what its creators envisioned during their vending-machine chats.

“I think we’ve come full circle in many ways,” Garsd said. “When it started it was a music show and now, in the last few years, we’ve moved back to where we started, using music to spotlight culture. We kind of got back to having interesting conversations and inviting the audience to listen.”

The show is available via Public Radio Exchange and NPR’s ContentDepot. NPR is suggesting that stations pair it with another half-hour show, the broadcast version of All Songs Considered.

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