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After an extended hiatus, Alt.Latino returns to NPR Music


NPR Music's Alt.Latino podcast has been producing episodes for over 12 years now. Through hundreds of interviews, music reviews and live performances, they've been exploring and shedding light on Latino cultures and music genres with and for their listeners. Now, this week, Alt.Latino relaunches, after months of rethinking their mission and retooling their editorial sonic approach. Co-hosts Felix Contreras and Anamaria Sayre are here to share what they've been going through to get to this new starting line. Felix, Ana, welcome.

FELIX CONTRERAS, BYLINE: Thank you. Good morning.


MARTÍNEZ: All right. So first, as they say, to move forward, you have to know where you've been. So, Felix, tell us a little bit about the last 12 years.

CONTRERAS: OK, first of all, I got to say, it went by in a flash, right? The goal has always been to offer listeners an exploration of the many cultures that exist within what is known as the Latino community. My former co-host, Jasmine Garsd, and I started with the idea to share our love for Latin alternative music, and then it morphed into something that embraced all kinds of artistic expression. And we've talked to icons like Rita Moreno, Carlos Santana, Jose Feliciano, and lots of up-and-coming artists whose names are now well-known with Latin music fans. We've talked to actors, writers, basically artists of all kinds. And what has resulted is an archive that is deep and lots of fun to listen to, if I must say.

MARTÍNEZ: And you also added a new co-host, which really, I think, moves the show into a brand-new era.

CONTRERAS: It definitely does, man. Anamaria Sayre starts as co-host with our first new episode this week, and it's going to be a lot more fun to have someone to share the mic with moving forward. And she also brings a younger perspective, 'cause I'm of a certain age, if you get what I mean.

MARTÍNEZ: You're a veterano. I know, Felix. Believe me, we all know. We all know. Now, Ana, you, I and Felix each represent, I think, a different generational experience of being Latino or Latina in this country. So how would you define a younger person's experience with culture and history?

SAYRE: OK, so I like to say that we're in a really interesting moment of, I think, both increased and decreased definition, if that makes sense. I think my generation is across the board really invested in being less focused on definition in the traditional sense, forcing people to fit themselves into boxes or represent themselves as any one thing. But I think everyone is also coming into this pride about who they are and where they come from. And I think the same can kind of be said for Latin music, in a way. The genre boundaries are getting very, very blurry. But we also are coming at the world with some serious fuerza. It's like the genre is having its own moment of definition.

MARTÍNEZ: And how is that going to be reflected in the new Alt.Latino?

CONTRERAS: OK, so what we're going to do is rather than select people to talk to about generic press cycle stuff, we're going to spend time and really get to know the artists for who they are. Talk around themes and ideas that have been consistently present in their lives.

MARTÍNEZ: All right. So tell us about the first few shows you have planned.

CONTRERAS: OK, yeah, we have some shows already produced, so we can give you a theme, who we talked to and a quick soundbite. We have Mexican vocalist Carla Morrison talking about mental health - now, her own mental health and how reaching out for help is viewed in some Latino communities.

CARLA MORRISON: When I was living in Phoenix, Ariz., I could talk about my mental health. I could really explore that part of me, whereas in Mexico, it's like, mija, you're not loca.


MORRISON: (Singing in Spanish).

SAYRE: We've also got Mexican American vocalist, a kid from Indiana, Omar Apollo, and he's been super open about his sexuality and talks about connecting with fans through that openness and vulnerability about that and his family.

OMAR APOLLO: I think it's, like, really important, especially when, like, queer Latino kids come up to me, and they'll tell me, like, they have the same amount of siblings as me. Their parents are from the same place. They're also queer. And, like, I'm like, oh, this is bigger than, like - than what I thought, you know? Or, like, when kids are like, I started playing guitar because of you, like, I'm like, yo, that's nuts 'cause I don't even think - I go home. I watch "P-Valley," you know? Like...

CONTRERAS: That was a fun moment there.

SAYRE: We got it on record.


APOLLO: (Singing) Evergreen. He tears me to pieces.

CONTRERAS: And Spanish superstar Rosalia talked to Ana about her role as a female in the music business and how she has tried very successfully, I might add, to take control of everything from her image to her music.

ROSALIA: The people that I work with - there's a lot of men, of course - also women, but my whole team is made of women, and in the studio a lot of times I feel like I'm surrounded by men. But at the same time, I'm always very sure about what I want to create.


ROSALIA: (Singing in Spanish).

MARTÍNEZ: Now, with so many podcasts out there in the world, both in English and Spanish, how do you make Alt.Latino stand out?

CONTRERAS: Yeah, of course. That was, like, the big question, the big goal that we tried to tackle while we were rethinking this. I think we're at a unique point in the history of Latino communities here in the U.S. There is a huge crop of baby boomers entering retirement age. The massive growth of our communities in the '80s and '90s was propelled by birth and not immigration. And young folks in Ana's generation grew up with the internet and social media. And all of those things intersect in our daily lives. And we think that what ties all of these things together are music, language, food, humor. So what we're going to do is try to offer a kitchen-table-type experience with Abuelita holding court, tios and tias giving opinions based on their experiences, and the young primos challenging it all and also learning from the discussion. We think this conversational-styled approach and the things we will talk about will hopefully help us stand out.

MARTÍNEZ: OK, so let me understand something here. Did I hear you actually have a real abuelita looking over your shoulder?


CONTRERAS: Yes, we do.


SAYRE: One could say I talk about my abuelita - we call her Lita - literally all the time. I think I would describe her as being all of the parts of me that are drama and chisme and corazon just magnified times a million. And so Felix was like, we got to have her bless the show, be in the show, looking after the show. So that is the heart, the energy that we're trying to bring to the table here. And you should look forward to hearing a lot more of her.

MARTÍNEZ: Well, and Abuelita would certainly match Felix's life experience.


MARTÍNEZ: Anamaria Sayre and Felix Contreras are the hosts of Alt.Latino from NPR Music. They've launched their podcast this week and are looking forward to the Alt.Latino quinceanera a few years from now. Thanks to you both for being with us today.

CONTRERAS: Thank you, A.

SAYRE: Thanks, A.


UNIDENTIFIED MUSICAL ARTIST: (Singing in Spanish). Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.