Jocelyn Moreno and Emily Santos Credit: courtesy the artists

Everyone has a podcast. Even your dog has a podcast. But when it comes to diversity, it’s no surprise that white people dominate the platform. According to 2018 data from Edison Research, 59 percent of U.S. podcast listeners were white—only 12 percent were Black and 11 percent were Latinx. While podcasting continues to rapidly grow, its diversity and accessibility are slowly catching up.

Aspiring Latinx, a new Chicago bilingual podcast officially debuting May 1 (its intro episode dropped last week), aims to combat those low numbers and give the local Latinx community a seat at the podcast table. Meant to “break the stereotypical storyline,” Aspiring Latinx tells the stories of everyday Latinx Chicagoans from different perspectives, industries, and identities to build community, empower one another, and accurately represent the community in the media.

“The goal is to have a platform that brings together the Latinx community because I feel like there’s such a disconnect with Latinx in terms of generations,” says Emily Santos, cofounder and cohost of the podcast.

Santos wants to make sure the podcast is inclusive for people who do not identify simply as Latino or Latina, an identity which she says is confusing within the community itself due to a lack of understanding. “Latinx” is seen as more of an umbrella term but is also one of debate among Latinos; the show tackles this difficult conversation to educate Latinos and non-Latinos alike. She wants to highlight the ethnic diversity and represent how language plays a role in identity—or how it doesn’t.

“[Being Latinx] doesn’t mean that you need to be fluent. It doesn’t mean that you need to be born in your country,” she says. “There’s so many different meanings and takes to what being a Latino is. And so that’s where we wanted to go and just have real conversations about what it actually is to be a person in this time.”

The six episodes bounce between English, Spanish, and Spanglish, depending on the language that is most comfortable for their interviewees and the topics. Guests like community and political organizers, health workers, and artists discuss race, ethnicity, colorism, identity in the workplace, and the importance of being a role model to younger generations.

Aspiring Latinx was born after a disappointing internship experience that squashed creative expectations for Santos and her cofounder and cohost Jocelyn Moreno—one where they were treated poorly because of their ethnicity. “We were more of a second thought, and there more for administration and cleaning duties versus me being the social media person and Jocelyn being a graphic designer,” says Santos, who now works in marketing and social media after graduating from Columbia College in 2018.

Moreno, who also graduated from Columbia with a degree in graphic design in 2018, says the experience was frustrating, but it pushed the two millennials to brainstorm ways to get their project off the ground on their own terms. It has allowed her to continue designing when she’s not working as a community health worker at Mujeres Latinas en Acción, a nonprofit serving Latinas.

Originally a magazine called Aspiring Latinas, Moreno says, the project was transformed into a podcast—with the name change—because it seemed like a more inclusive, fun, and dynamic platform to engage its subjects and audience. Editorial content still lives online, the founders say, where they post pictures, quotes, and transcriptions of their podcast episodes for those who cannot speak both languages.

“If we were to have the name how it was, we would be taking away that part of every person to tell their own identity and you never want to strip that away from anyone,” Moreno says. “Let someone say who they are before you even say it for them because as Latinos, we are constantly told who we are.”

Santos and Moreno are both first-generation college graduates, a big deal for them and their families. But without aspiring role models in their community, both founders say it wasn’t until college that they found their confidence and passions. For Santos, that is the underlying inspiration for Aspiring Latinx. “I really do believe if you don’t see any of that representation, it’s really hard to envision what you can be,” she says.

Reflecting on the yearlong hard work, the founders say they are in it for the long haul. They plan to expand the podcast through other avenues and assured me there will be a season two. For now, they are happy to revel in season one and hope to bring diversity and change to the Latinx community by reaching people who might not usually listen to podcasts.

“It’s not gonna happen one day to another, but I think just bringing in as many people who are usually not part of projects like this will get people to start listening,” Moreno says. “We want to create a platform where we have this connection with people and we invite people to always connect with us. If there’s anything they want to hear, or if they want us to put certain people on, we really want this project to be as close to home as possible.”   v