Interview With Podcast Creator Lory Martinez {Latinx Heritage Month Series 2020}

For the fifth post in my Latinx Heritage Month Series, today’s guest is Lory Martinez, podcast creator / producer and journalist, based in France! If you’ve been following my blog, you’ll know I’ve adored her audio drama podcast, Mija Podcast and I’m thrilled to be highlighting a Latina creator in the podcasting space! 🎙✨

Here’s Lory to talk more about Mija Podcast and what listeners can expect:

Mija Podcast is an audionovela that tells the story of an immigrant family across generations in the form of short 10 minute episodes. Each story tell the story of a different person, their journey to the host country, their joys, their sorrows, etc. It’s an emotional rollercoaster like your favorite telenovela, but in audio form! Season 1 is about a Colombian American immigrant family, Season 2 is about a Franco-Chinese family, and all episodes are available in English, French, Spanish and Mandarin versions for the world to hear.”

Next, I asked Lory about the inspiration behind her podcast and if there were any memorable moments during the creation process:

“Mija Podcast was inspired by my own family’s immigration journey from Cali and Bogota Colombia to the United States. I wanted to create an audio drama that pays homage to their journey and the journey that so many Latin-American immigrants make to the United States. A memorable moment was interviewing family members for inspiration, I conducted research on the region where they came from, their history and used that as a base for the fiction series. Our producers in Bogota and NYC were wonderful, with their help I was able to document their stories in a very real way. My parents were so excited to be a part of the project and the best moment was when they told me they were proud of me for celebrating our culture through the show.”

What really makes this podcast stand out is through the in-depth, heartfelt character profiles with each episode. Each one delves deep into the larger meaning of family and home! I then asked Lory if there was a particular character in Season 1 she enjoyed writing and what she enjoyed the most while writing about family:

“I really enjoyed writing Tatika’s episode, specifically the scene where she left Bogota. It’s based on my mother’s journey from Bogota to Jackson Heights. In writing it I wanted people to hear all of the emotions she might have had: excitement, sadness, nervousness, and joy. I think a lot of the time we talk about the immigrant journey we only talk about what happens when we get there, not really about leaving so that was particularly fun. I also connected with my mother’s story more, because I myself immigrated to Europe at around the same age. So as I wrote the scenes, I felt like we were feeling the same things during that last day at home.”

As Lory herself drew from her own Colombian background to create the Mija Podcast, I asked her if there were any specific moments she enjoyed writing and what it was like to explore her Colombian heritage through this contemporary story:

“I really enjoyed researching Colombian history. I was born in NYC, to two immigrant parents, and though they transmitted their culture to me as much as they could, there were still a lot of things missing. I never learned Colombia’s history in school, you know?

So for me it was such an honor and a humbling experience to fill those gaps in my knowledge to better tell the story. In terms of particular moments, loved writing about “ El cacumen” it’s a slang word for street smarts, but it ended up becoming the heartbeat of the show ( it was signaled by a drum sound). I also wrote as being much more of a symbol of our hope and resilience as immigrants. El cacumen represents the idea that: YES, we can do it, we have what it takes, and nothing should get in the way of our success. I loved being able to insert that concept into all the episodes to reiterate the point that immigrants are strong and can do whatever they set their minds to.”

Next we discussed: Writing! Each story from Mija’s family members stands on its own, but the further you make your way through the series you begin to see how they all connect. The storytelling is very beautiful and feels personal. I wondered how Lory found the writing voice and style for the show:

“It was a slow process at first, finding the voice of Mija. Initially I drafted a multigenerational fiction with many different voice actors, a kind of 100 years of solitude plot with tons of different characters. But I realized I needed to simplify it to make it not only understandable, but also relatable in translation! So the way I did the writing was outlining all the episodes and then writing them each in order. Each script had to have sound design, and I wanted each character to have a kind of theme sound/song. For example Rocky, the dad, is a “pollo choto,” he’s always with his mom, like a little baby chick. So there was always the little chick sound in his episode. In writing the son, “Mano,” I’d reuse the same sound to show the connection between the characters, he’s like his dad, always with his mama. And the order of the episodes had to be just right, because you need to meet the mom and dad before you meet the son. And then the older generation, for their stories to make sense you have to connect them to the first 4. So there were always these sound links, and moments where you’d see the characters interact.

As you progress through the season and meet everyone you get the sense of family, of how the mother and daughter and grandmother and grandfather would have interacted. So that influenced the stories and anecdotes I chose to focus on in each episode. I always wanted to make sure the episode that preceded the one I was writing introduced some aspect of the next character.”

As not only the creator and writer, but also the voice of Mija in Season 1, she discussed what that experience was like as well:

“It was wild. I speak English, French and Spanish. And though Spanish is my mother tongue, I’d never voiced audio in Spanish before. French, I’d done a little of, in some independent podcasts I’d worked on but never Spanish. I had lived in France for about 4 years at that point and Spanish was less a part of my daily life, outside of calls with my family in Spanish, I wasn’t using it as much. So it was a process of relearning the fluidity of speech. Of rereading phrases out loud until they sounded natural. I still have a slight accent in Spanish, it’s funny, when Colombians hear me, they definitely hear a Colombian accent, but the giveaway is that is doesn’t really belong to a particular region, it’s a kind of mixed thing, that comes from being raised in NYC. There’s also a lot of Spanglish thrown in there. So in voicing the espanol, I rediscovered my mother language. Voicing the Spanish version felt like coming home. And I have to admit, when I recorded that last episode, it was the Spanish version that made me cry.”

Lory then discussed how much it meant to her that despite the Latinx-focus of her podcast that listeners from everywhere connect with Mija’s story:

“I think the main thing I wanted to make sure of was that though it’s Latinx, anybody can listen to Mija. And part of the reason I produced it in English and French as well was to share that message, that immigrant stories are universal, that whether they are in the US, or France or wherever in the world, they are feeling the same things. I especially loved hearing from listeners outside the latinx community, who saw themselves in Mija, because their parents had gone through it too. So for me it was this double intention of : Transmitting latinx culture to the world, and also transmitting the immigrant experience in general.”

Then Lory delved into her experience as a podcast creator, being a Latina podcaster, and any podcast recommendations she has from Latine creators:

“I worked in radio before getting into podcasts so for me podcasting was a medium that gave me the freedom to explore niche topics that weren’t exactly for general audiences. When I first started in podcasting, the topics I was exploring were multiculturalism, and multilingualism and expatriation. It was 2015, and I hadn’t really explored fiction as an option. In reality, one of the first fiction podcasts that I listened to was Welcome to Nightvale, so it was very science fiction. But in making Mija I wanted to make something more realistic. I listened to some old audiodramas in Spanish, like Kaliman, to learn a little more about sound design, and just made my own thing. For fiction I highly recommend Guerra 3 from Podium podcasts in Spain, and for interview format, I highly recommend Latina to Latina. It really gives you the sense that even your idols went through the same doubts and questions on their journey to success!”

What stood out to me about Mija Podcast was that it’s not only told in English, but is also available in Spanish and French, it’s wonderful to know that people from all over can enjoy Mija’s story! I asked Lory whether this was planned early on and what reception has been like seeing her podcast available in many languages:

“Yes, as the flagship show of Studio Ochenta, my podcast production company, mija was always going to be in multiple languages. At Ochenta, our motto is raising voices across cultures, so that was always at the core of every version of the show. The reception has been great. It is still in the Top 5 of Fiction and Drama podcasts in Spain, even a year after it’s release! It also hit number one in drama in France. I’m especially proud that the second season of Mija, which was released in Mandarin, hit #1 across all podcasts in mainland China! For me it’s humbling to see that this latina led production, with a title in Spanish: Mija, a word that means so much for our community, ended up touching so many people around the world. That no matter what anyone says, our stories are worth hearing.”

To conclude our interview I wondered what books or podcasts Lory was currently enjoying:

“I devoured Clap when You Land by Elizabeth Acevedo when it came out. She has such a beautiful way of writing. I also recently read Exhalation by Ted Chiang and have become obsessed with reading his short stories. One of my favorites is about a language actually. It’s called The Great Silence and talks about how humanity is so obsessed with deciphering sounds from space, that we don’t think to decipher those of our animal neighbors. Finally, I spent quarantine re-reading 100 years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. I recently bought the Spanish language edition and am enjoying being able to compare. It’s definitely a book I constantly come back to for inspiration, especially as a Colombian American creator.”

Thank you to Lory for joining me on the final week of my Latinx Heritage Month series! There’s a couple more posts still planned for this week and I just want to say thank you for joining me thus far in the series. It’s been so much fun celebrating Latine voices, stories and creators!

You can listen to Lory’s podcast through: Apple, Spotify and the Studio Ochenta website!

Today’s Latinx-owned indie bookstore I’m highlighting is Mil Mundos located in Brooklyn!

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