Nothing has brought me more joy than being able to witness more Central American stories and individuals be uplifted in the last couple of years especially Salvadoran and Salvadoran-Americans.
Some of my favorite Salvi’s doing the damn thing are: Felix Quintana, a multidisciplinary artist, photographer, educator and activist, Maggie Carranza creator of the children’s book ABCs of El Salvador and I have to give a shout out to my co-worker Ray Lopez Chang who is Salvadoran, Nicaraguan, and Chinese and has been working to achieve more equity for Black and Latinx students in Los Angeles Unified School District for over 6 years now!
And of course this list wouldn’t be complete without Gloria Figueroa, creator and host of podcast ¡Radio No Jodás! and a dear friend of mine.
I reached out to Gloria to discuss the work that she is doing through her podcast and other platforms to uplift Salvadoran voices both in the states and in El Salvador.
Can you tell me a little bit about yourself and your upbringing?
I’m the daughter of two Salvadoran migrants that migrated to Los Angeles. I grew up in Highland Park for the first twelve years of my life, I like to say I grew up during the “pre-gentrification” years. For the most part, I knew what it was like to be Salvadoran at home, but in the outside world it was different. I never felt like I was able to identify myself well, or with my community, and mostly with other Latinx’s around me. It was difficult, growing up in an inner-city, but Highland Park will always be home to me. It’s my hood, the city that raised me, and the city that I’ll always go back to.
¡Radio No Jodás! has garnered an amazing following! Can you tell us what the goal of the podcast is and your favorite episode and why?
Thank you! I’m so proud of my baby. The goal for the podcast is for it to be an open platform/space for Salvadorans to share their stories themselves and the way they should properly be told- (not like how the media wrongfully tells our stories) There’s so many, but I would have to say the collaborative episode with the platform Stories from El Salvador. It’s at the top of my list of my personal favorite episodes because it was a compilation of different stories from Salvadorans around the country sharing their heartfelt stories and experiences. It just resonated with me so much because it’s time for the world to hear our stories directly from our people. The episode is titled ‘Stories from El Salvador’ if you’d like to listen.
Where did you get the inspiration for the name ¡Radio No Jodás! ?
One of my dad’s favorite expressions that I hear him say all the time is “no jodas!”, so the name came to me naturally at the time I started the podcast. It actually started as a joke because I really couldn’t come up with anything, until I gave up and said “Radio… no jodas!” out loud and it just stuck. I thought it was clever and to the point so I decided to keep it. Everyone seems to love it, so I appreciate that.
We are super excited that the podcast is going to be coming back with some new content! Can you give us a little sneak peak into some of the guests, themes, and conversations that people should look forward to in the new season?
Yes! I’m so excited to be coming out with new content, finally! It’s definitely going to be different this time around. I can’t give away too much, but I’m working behind the scenes to bring much better, quality content and just take the podcast to another level. As for guests, well… you’re gonna have to stick around and wait and see, but I promise the listeners will love them!
In addition, you are currently the host of Somos Arte a docu-series highlighting various branches of art in El Salvador. Can you tell us how you were able to land that amazing gig and what has been your favorite part about working on a documentary and the most challenging?
Yes, I met with Erick the creator of the docu-series who’s now a good friend of mine and is the founder of Normandie Records, a record label based in Los Angeles.
I reached out him because at the time, he was selling a CentroAmerica vol.1 mixtape on cassette and it featured new artists from Central America, (most of them were from El Salvador) and I wanted to see how he came across this music.
It blew my mind that this quality of music and artists were coming from El Salvador and that I wasn’t aware of them before. So the first day we met he told me about his idea to create a docu-series, and he basically asked if I was interested in being a part of the team, and of course I said yes.
A few months after our initial meeting, I was going to El Salvador for leisure and mentioned to him that I was going and that I would love to meet these artists and maybe do some interviews with them. So after that we had a team meeting and they asked if I would like to be the host. At first, I was going to say no because I had never done any camera work, but I knew this was going to be something way bigger than me and it was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up, so I said yes.
My favorite part has been able to work and hang out with all these artists and creators. It’s been so amazing for me to be able to say that I went to El Salvador to work and be a part of this team, and more than anything being able to call these artists and creators my friends. The most challenging part has been pushing myself to greater lengths that I’ve never done before. I didn’t go to school for acting or broadcasting, so teaching myself how to work in front of the camera and having others help has been challenging.
The documentary has taken you back to El Salvador but you often go for leisure. Can you tell us what your favorite spots to hit up in El Salvador when you are there?
Selfishly, I want to say no because I don’t want people knowing about them, but I’ll clue y’all in lol.
At the top of my list, El lago de Coatepeque is my favorite spot in El Salvador, my family is from Santa Ana and they grew up going to this lake so I feel spiritually connected to it. El arbol de dios (Fernando Llort’s museum), Las brumas in El Boqueron, Playa San Blas, casa 1800, Espacio 132, Overdose coffee, Juan Valdez coffee for the best iced chais (not kidding), Boca Boca, Zona Rosa/ San Benito for shopping, (my favorite brand is Mulieri), El Cadejo brewery, and lastly Nomada for drinks or brunch.
Your platforms are meant to bring representation to Salvadorans and Salvadoran-Americans alike. What does genuine representation mean to you and how can others be more conscious about it when creating?
First off, if you’re not Salvadoran then you should not be creating content for us, period. However, if you’re a big Latinx network, then the best way to create proper content for us is directly asking Salvadorans for their insight or give them the space/platform to work with them to help represent us well. There’s so many creative Salvadorans out there, it’s time we give them the chance and spotlight. As for proper representation, again, the best way to get that is to have an actual Salvadoran create their work and put it out there. I can’t tell you how tired I am of seeing the same content or as i’d like to say “la misma bayuncada” online. Those meme comparisons and putting two Latinx’s side by side isn’t cool and just straight up xenophobic. Let’s not do that anymore.
Lastly, any big plans in 2020 for yourself personally, the documentary, or the podcast?
I had so many plans, but with everything going on, things fell through, as I’m sure it did for many around the world. Ironically this situation has definitely helped me take things day by day, and just enjoy the present which is something I never did before. I can’t disclose much on the documentary, but for the podcast, listeners can definitely expect new content, and episodes soon.
Keep up with Gloria and her podcast here:
Instagram: @Gloriaaimeee and @Radionojodas
Twitter: @Gloriaaimeefig and @Radionojodas
Podcast: Available on iTunes & Spotify