[Soulful solo acapella vocals] It’s a Revolutioooonnnnnnn, ow!
Gabby Rivera: On this week’s episode, I’m talking to the Tía of Journalism herself, the one and only Maria Hinojosa of Latino USA and In the Thick. Ooh, she’s my godmama! [giggles]
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Maria Hinojosa: One of my very best friends in high school was a- was a lesbian, actually, and that- that made me kind of understand — actually she, she kissed me and I realized I wasn’t a lesbian. I was like-
Maria: – and I was like-
Gabby: That’s when you came out as straight, right?
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[Joy Revolution theme song softly plays in the background]
Gabby: I’m Gabby Rivera, your nerd burger cousin, who always got straight A’s and never, ever ratted you out for stealing the last piece of chocolate cake. And this is Joy Revolution, the podcast that asks, “How do you prioritize Joy?”
Gabby: My next guest is an Emmy award-winning journalist. She’s currently the Journalist-in-Residence at Barnard College, while running her own multimedia nonprofit, Futuro Media Group, out of Harlem. I’m talking the original Tía of Journalism, Maria Hinojosa. Welcome to Joy Revolution!
Maria: I’m so haaaaappyyyy!
Maria: Yeah! I’m just happy listening to you talking about joy.
Gabby: [Laughs] Good!
Maria: No, seriously, I jus-, I love the idea. It’s, it’s something that I, I think about a lot, so when you were like, ‘Let’s do it,’ I was like, ‘Hell yeah!’
Gabby: Maria, when we first met, when you had me on In the Thick, I called you my tía, I called you my madrina, literally like every term of endearment that I could possibly think of for, you know, for you. And, and it was because you offered me this, like, love and respect and care, like my mom’s family, right? And a lot times, cis, straight, gender conforming Latinas, they get really freaked out around me. They wanna try to enforce these gender norms, they wanna know where my dress is, they wanna eyeball me when I go to the bathroom. Like, think about it, right? Every baby shower, every quinceañera, every wedding is like the most gendered thing. It is an exercise in how am I going to dodge this homophobia, this transphobia, this fatphobia, and, Maria, I didn’t have to do any of that. I didn’t have to shrink myself, I didn’t have to teach you anything. Like, you represent so much, right? Like, we talked about, I said, tías and madrinas, and stuff. What would you say, what advice, like, not everyone is an investigative journalist like you, right? Not everybody’s going to have this opportunity to, like, land in someone else’s life, in someone else’s story. And especially, like, for older Latinas, and, like, madrinas and all that stuff. What advice would you give to our people about, like, accepting and connecting with queer and trans people of color. And, and that’s like our cousins, that’s like daughters, sons, children, like-
Maria: [Sighs] I wish that the abuelitas and the abuelitos, and the tías and tíos, they would go to la Escuelita.
Gabby: [Softly] Yes!
Maria: Like, if we could say to them, ‘¿Óyeme, quieres ir a ver un show?’
Maria: ‘You wanna go see a show?’
Gabby: Listen, and if you don’t know, Escuelita was this incredible, like, Latino club, right, in the- to me it was the ‘90s, so I don’t know how long Escuelita was around.
Maria: It started in the, probably in the ‘70s, and I was going there in the 1980s. And it was in a basement way below, with, like, serious, like, uh, metal detectors, and, and what do they call it when they search you?
Gabby: And incredibly gorgeous go-go dancers.
Maria: Everything! And-
Maria: And back then, the shows, uh, would start at, like, one thirty in the morning.
Gabby: Yes! Yes!
Maria: And, um, and there was, this is part of what was happening, with what ‘Pose’ is doing, right? It was the families, and the different-
Maria: – houses! And they were impersonating mostly, anyone, actually! Whether it was Aretha Franklin, to Celia Cruz, eh, to, cómo es?
Gabby: La Lupe?
Maria: La Lupe! Por favor!
Gabby: La Lupeee
Maria: Entonces, you know, there was like-
Gabby: [Sings from La Lupe’s ‘Puro Teatro’] ‘Teatrooo’ [Laughs]
Maria: Entonces tenian, and they had like the nails, you know, and that’s what I would, I would say to the abuelitos and the tías-
Gabby: [Softly] Yes!
Maria: -would you, would you go with me-
Gabby: Come dance
Maria: -would you just come and just see. And then to –
Gabby: Sometimes it- oh, go ahead.
Maria: -and then to just say, you know, ‘¿conoces a fulanito? Do you know so-and-so?’
Maria: You know, hello, Walter Mercado, you know-
Maria: Like, can we talk about what, ‘Do you love Walter Mercado?’ ‘I do,’ okay, so then let’s talk about that.
Maria: Like, I try to approach these conversations, and you hear my tone, like, I’m very, like-
Gabby: [softly] yes
Maria: -like, [lowers voice] low, I lower my voice. Like, I can get really excited, as you know. In these conversations, I talk really calmly,
Maria: I try not to be, like, forcing, and I’m just like, ‘So let’s, have you thought about Walter Mercado?’
Maria: ‘How much you love him’-
Gabby: I know, no, I know, I know you’re being serious,-
Maria: – you know-
Gabby: -but in my head, I’m like-
Maria: No, I know that,
Gabby: – you have to, like, hit that
Maria: -but here, mama, because-
Gabby: [Mumbles unintelligibly]
Maria: Is that okay?
Gabby: Oh, of course, yes, thanks for asking.
Maria: So, but you know, this is, you asked me about the tíos and the abuelitas, they know Walter Mercado!
Gabby: Yes! Yes, you’re right.
Maria: They know La Lupe!
Gabby: I also feel like they should know better. But! I’m with you in the, like, gentle conversation, right. I think sometimes there’s like a, like a fear sometimes, you know,
Maria: A lot of fear
Gabby: -this unspoken, there’s like a language barrier, too, and it’s like, there’s so much there, so I’m with you on, like, meeting folx where they are, too, right? Within my realm of, like, who I wanna educate and who I wanna give that energy to, right? And that’s why I want to talk about our grandparents and our aunts, because it’s like, sometimes with your family, that is like, that might be the place where you don’t want to spend any energy at all, or the place where you’re like, ‘Damn, these are the only people I have.’ We gotta at least try.
Maria: And, you know, it’s in everybody’s family. When I say when ‘It’s in everybody’s family,’ I mean the silence.
Maria: I mean the-
Gabby: I thought you meant butch cousins, ‘cause I was like, ‘That’s why I opened the show like that,’-
Maria: That too
Gabby: -because I’m, like, –
Maria: That too
Gabby: – ‘We’re here! You see us in the picture!’ You kn- [laughs]
Maria: Everywhere. I mean, por favor, does everybody remember Frida Kahlo dressing with a suit and tie in her family portrait?
Maria: So, eh, I’m just like, yeah, we, we are here, we are present.
Gabby: And being present with you, like, I feel joy, I felt joy, that’s why I’m having this conversation. I want to ask you, Maria, like, do you have, growing up, did you have a relationship with joy? Did you have a concept of joy growing up?
Maria: I mean, my joy was my family. Eh, when I think of joy, I think of being in the car, all six [chuckles] of us, in a station wagon.
Gabby: Sayin’ [laughs]
Maria: All six of us in a station wagon, really packed so that the bottom is hitting the, you know, when you go down the curb.
Maria: Because we’re packed and getting ready to go to Mexico, from Chicago, driving in a car, all six of us, in one car, –
Gabby: [Softly] Wow!
Maria: – for five days.
Maria: And that was joy. That was, that was like the funnest possible time. There was no screens, you know, we –
Maria: – would play the Alphabet Game by getting the alphabet off of the billboards-
Maria: -on the highways. And, you know, sometimes there were no billboards, so we would get them off of the license plates.
Maria: You know, it was, um, a time when I learned how to cross borders. So, I was seeing-
Gabby: I was going to ask, so was it easier, also, being an immigrant at that time?
Maria: Eehh, easier? I think, well, you know, this is exactly what I’m looking, and, and studying, and writing about, because in some ways it was, because we were not hated. You know, there were always racists.
Maria: You know, and there were places where you knew you didn’t want to go. We knew very well [scoffs] parts of Chicago where we would duck so our heads wouldn’t be seen.
Maria: Where there were white supremacists.
Maria: Em, but like, if we left and we would get south of Illinois, Missouri, you know, into Texas, ehhh, people just didn’t really– [slightly high-pitched] — yeah, it was kind of like, ‘Oh,’ they’re like, ‘Yeah, you know, an immigrant family here or there.’ But remember, we weren’t called ‘illegal immigrants’ then, we weren’t called ‘aliens.’
Gabby: I didn’t know that!
Maria: No, we weren’t — nooo. We weren’t called ‘illegal immigrants.’ That’s not, that’s a term that really came around, [breathes in] mmm, post 1986. Really- really in the 1990s, and, and Bill Clinton’s signing the very anti-immigration laws that have got us to the hell where we are now-
Gabby: [Incredulous] Woww
Maria: – it was a Democrat that signed those laws. Yeah.
Gabby: [Sarcastically] Good job, Bill.
Maria: So, that was joy, was being con mi familia.
Gabby: That’s great.
Maria: We spoke Spanish, at h- in, I mean, we often answered my parents in English, so even, even within the six of us, we were code switching all the time.
Maria: Em, and we were learning, again, to cross borders, whether it was the border leaving Illinois, you know, into the next state, you know, Missouri, or whether it was crossing from Texas into [Spanish pronunciation] Mexico. Um, and so this crossing of borders makes you open your eyes, and, oftentimes, when you grow up feeling like ‘the other,’ because I was kind of like ‘the other’ in the United States, but I was also like ‘the other’ in [Spanish pronunciation] Mexico.
Maria: [Giggles] I mean my cousins were like, ‘What’s wrong with your Spanish?’
Gabby: Listen! That is the struggle, right? Like, it’s even, like, as a, like, Mainland United States, like, Puerto Rican. I mean, just earlier, Kat Lazo was like, ‘Your Spanish doesn’t sound Puerto Rican, it sounds, like, kind of, like generic Spanish.’ And I was like, you know,-
Maria: [Cackles] Ahahaha, Kat, hahaha!
Kat: Uh oh! Uh oh!
Gabby: This is, this is what ha-! But, you know, there’s that, like, there’s that, like, balance. Like, you’re from here, but you’re also, your heart is there, and, like, who are you, really, you know? Um…
Maria: And here’s the thing, –
Maria: -you know what brings-
Maria: You know what brings joy?
Gabby: Tell me.
Maria: Is when you stop fighting yourself on that.
Maria: What brings joy is when you’re, like, um — there’s a, a rapper who I’m just in love with right now, I don’t know if you know her, her name is Snow Tha Product.
Gabby: Oh my God, yes! Snow Tha Product!
Maria: Okay, so, like, I-
Gabby: Man, she has one of the best freestyles, like-
Maria: I adore her, I’m just, like, dying to meet her. And, you know, I don’t fangirl a lot, [chuckles] but I, like, love her.
Maria: And one of her lines is, ‘No soy de aquí, y no soy de allá,’ and then she follows that up with, ‘Y sí soy de aquí, y soy de allá.’
Maria: Which means, ‘I’m not from there, and I’m not from here, and I’m also, I am from there! And I am from here!’
Maria: I am! And the moment that we, you know, however we don’t fit in, you know, in some ways-
Maria: -like, if you want to take the binary between Mexico and the United States, and it’s just like, it’s either that, [raises voice] ‘It’s either Mexico or the United States, you gotta choose!’ And it’s, like, ‘No, fuck that binary!’
Maria: Like, no! Like, I wanna be, like- What makes me fabulous is the fact that I can even have this problem! That’s what makes-
Gabby: I am all the things! [chuckles]
Maria: That’s what makes me so fucking cool!
Maria: It’s that I can actually be worried about my identity and I’m like, [whispers in emphasis]that’s our super power.
Gabby: That is it.
Maria: And when you feel that freedom to just be like, it’s not on your terms, it’s on mine, that brings so much joy.
Gabby: Listen, and that’s already the question I was going to ask you. That sounds like a working-
Gabby: – definition of joy for you right now. You got the family piece, when you were a kid, and what you just said as, like, kind of accepting your whole nuanced self from all the places where you’ve been, where you are, like, that is a working definition of joy. And you wanna know something else? Something that had me so hyped, ‘cause you know I had to do my homework, ‘cause Maria Hinojosa was coming! I found out [giggles]–
Gabby: – that you were NPR’s first Latina intern.
Maria: Yeah. First Latina intern, first Latina correspondent.
Gabby: You hear that y’all? Like, [deep, robotic voice] first Latina intern! Shhhhhhh!
Gabby: That’s amazing! And then it’s like, first Latina intern in NPR, to, like, four-time Emmy award-winning journalist? Are you on, what? Is it five? Six? Seventeen?
Maria: No, four. Four.
Gabby: That’s a Joy Revolution in and of itself. I wanna hear a little bit about, like, that magic. Like, what was the thing that you were like, ‘This journalism stuff, this is the thing that I’m gonna do. And I’m going to do it, I’m going to get in, even if I am the first Latina intern.’ How do you even get that job? And then stick with it?
Maria: Well, I think I understood I had privilege.
Maria: And that meant I had responsibility. So, by the way, you know, battled the same as everybody else, impostor syndrome, ‘Do I really belong? Am I supposed to be here? Am I good enough?’ You know, ‘Am I a writer now?’ All of, like, so –
Gabby: Are we the same person? Like, wassup?
Maria: Just all the time, um, you know, battling that. Eh, but, but also, you know, my father was a medical doctor, may he rest in peace, he helped to create the cochlear implant.
Maria: Dr. Raul Hinojosa, I know, he was a badass. Um, and he, em, he kind of had his own dream of, like, being, an investigator, a scientist, really kind of quirky, nerdy!
Maria: Totalmente! Mr. Nerd.
Maria: And I think that he, you know, um, seeded in me this capacity to have a passion for something. And so, when- and he was an educated man. My mom didn’t finish high school, she was married at 17, and later, you know, became a social worker, etc. But we had privilege, like, we were growing up, my father worked at the University of Chicago.
Gabby: Oh wow.
Maria: So we didn’t have money, ‘cause he wasn’t a medical doctor, he was a research doctor, so it was not about money. But we, we lived next to a university that was-
Gabby: You had access!
Maria: And we had access. So I end up, one of my girlfriends was like, ‘Hey, I’m applying to this place called Barnard, it’s a women’s college in New York City, it’s like next to Columbia University.’ And I was like, ‘I know Columbia, I think I’ve heard of that, yeah.’
Maria: ‘Okay, Barnard, sure,’ I’m like, because I wanted to be an actress. And so I came to New York, and I was like, ‘Yeah, sure,’ you know. I didn’t know it was a prestigious Seven Sisters blah, blah.
Maria: I didn’t!
Gabby: Well, how would you, right? Like, that’s, like, one of those white people things.
Gabby: And they got these prestige-
Gabby: – uh, families, these legacy models, right? And then you’re supposed to fawn over the fact that you got into a Sister college.
Gabby: We love you, Barnard, but still, it’s like, you kn- [laughs]
Maria: We adore you, Barnard.
Maria: No, no, we totally- I’m the inaugural journalist in residence.
Gabby: Yeah, you are!
Maria: So, hell yes, I- I love Barnard.
Gabby: [High-pitched cheer] Ooh-Ooh!
Maria: And I love my Barnard students. I adore them. Em, so, what I’m trying to say is that I understood that I had privilege. Yes, I was totally street, I never- always buying second-hand clothes at the Army Surplus. I was, like, so raaad!
Maria: I was, like, really, like, you know, eh, but I understood I had privilege. And to me, once I got that, I was- really it was a white woman from the Barnard career services, that forced me to apply for the internship. ‘Cause I told her, ‘Why would I apply? I’m not good enough.’
Maria: Even though I had done five years of college radio.
Maria: I was like, ‘I’m not good enough.’ She was like, ‘Hell yes you are, you’re applying.’ That’s why I-, that’s also an ally, and that’s why I ended up at NPR. And once I, you know, worked super hard and was the first Latina hired as an assistant producer — a production assistant on Weekend Edition Saturday in 1985, nine months after my internship. And so now I’m in the newsroom, I am the first Latina at the NPR, inside the belly of the beast.
Gabby: [Quietly] Wow!
Maria: And I was like, ‘Okay, what the fuck? What’s going on, like, like I’m like-
Gabby: Yo, right! And I can’t even imagine back then, they were like-
Gabby: I feel like now everyone is like, you know, talking about social justice, people are talking about, like, gay rights, but back then it was like, everybody probably was, like, a white dude. Right? And not trying to be listening to some little, whoever, Latina, right? Like –
Maria: It was, it was definitely trippy. Um, and at that moment I understood, I was like, okay, when I would go and see the editorial meetings with all- a lot of white men, and white women, [rapid fire] putting up their hands, coming up with story ideas, quoting this, and quoting that, I was like, ‘Shit!’ you know? Getting ideas torn down and I was like [inhales dramatically], ‘Ay, this-’ And I was like, ‘¿Sabes qué? You have to. You are in that room for a goddamn reason!’ I understood that because I was a Latin American Latino studies major, I studied women’s studies, I studied political economy, I was highly [chuckles] politicized. I understood equity, and access, you know? I mean, Central America was in the middle of a revolution.
Maria: Women refugees were here, just like they are now. So I was highly aware. I was not a babosa that just kind of ended up there.
Gabby: [Laughing] Right!
Maria: And so, but I had to convince myself.
Gabby: Yeah, you had to find your bravery!
Maria: Hellll Ye- and that-
Gabby: ‘Cause no one, like, gives it to you, right?
Maria: No. And I was like, ‘¿Sabes qué? The fact that you have the privilege to be in here means you have to show up. And I don’t care that you’re terrified, you’re speaking for others.’
Gabby: My God! Oh my God! I feel like that’s like, [giggles] that’s, like, my pep talk sometimes to myself in the morning when I’m like, ‘I shouldn’t be here. I’m too this, I’m too that, no one’s going to accept me.’ And it’s like, ‘Bitch, you’re alive!’
Gabby: ‘And you’re living good, and you’re thriving, so you better open up and speak!’ You know?
Maria: Exactly. Exactly.
Gabby: Yeeeah! [laughs] I’m going to high-five you.
Gabby: So I wanna know, I wanna know, in your journalism, right, you’re out there, you’re telling these stories, you’re sharing people’s stories, you’re coming up against some of the most formidable humans, right? Uh, good or bad, right? What’s a moment, right, in your work, in your journalism that’s like a joy moment. Not just a happy moment, but a moment where you’re, like, all the spirits are in alignment, the healing, the intention, the revolution that you are hoping this story would bring about, ‘Pan, there it is!’ You are exactly where you’re meant to be. What is that moment?
Maria: [Voice breaking] So actually, I’m going to cry right now, because, because it’s what happened yesterday. So here’s the thing, and I’m crying because it’s part of understanding joy, it’s actually understanding tears.
Maria: [Crying] And deep, deep sadness. So yesterday [sniffles], ‘cause when people ask me, like, ‘What’s the moment in your journalism,’ I’m like, ‘Oh my God, Sonia Sotomayor,’ you know, and I’m like, ‘There’s so many things.’ But, but then I’m like, ‘What was the most, what was I doing in my journalism just this week?’ [Sniffles] And where I was, was a woman, I was with a woman who gave me an exclusive story. Um, I can’t give too much, but she was an immigrant in detention, and she was talking to me about, essentially, um, basically, torture. And so why I’m crying is because I was crying with her. As she was speaking about this, I’m crying with her because she’s in trauma. She was, she’s experienced a torture that doesn’t leave a mark. I’m not going to go into detail because, you know, that’s my reporting.
Maria: But she was a victim of torture in the United States of America, and there’s no mark. How do you prove it? And yet she’s traumatized and, as she’s talking to me, I am crying with her, and I am a journalist, you know, and I’m getting her story. And so when you’re saying to me, ‘What is a moment when everything aligns, and you’re, like, in the spirits,’ it’s actually in that moment. When I am connecting with another human being, who is trusting me with her story. And I cry because we were talking about the most traumatic experience in her life. But at the same time, that experience between she and I will be a moment that is so profound, because we made a deep connection. And so that deep human connection is what brings me joy. It’s knowing that this person, who came here with nothing, and no one, and was victimized from- on so many levels, knows that someone came to interview her, and spend time with her. And is going to come back, ‘cause I’m doing –
Maria: -it’s, you know, it’s like a documentary, right, for Latino USA. We’re investigating part of this story.
Maria: And so here’s the weird thing, mamita, is that [sniffles] part of what we have to understand is that in the world of journalism, there are things that are really horrible that happen, and they also have this other flip side. And, and so, as a journalist you kind of live that all the time.
Maria: And you know what day it is today, right?
Maria: It’s 9/11. So I’m, I’m looking at what time it is [clears throat], it is-
Gabby and Maria: [In unison] 7:11
Maria: 7:11 on 9/11. It’s 18 years. Um, you know, at this time I was still at the CNN bureau. I would’ve still not gone home to see my children or my husband. They knew that I was alive by now because they had heard me on television, that’s the only reason that they knew that I was alive.
Maria: ‘Cause everybody knew that-
Gabby: Nobod- we didn’t know anything, and then-
Maria: – ‘Well, Maria went to the World Trade Center.’
Maria: ‘‘Cause that’s where CNN is centered down there, so that’s where -’ Who knows? And then they heard my voice and they were like, [high pitched glee] ‘She’s alive!’ You know, like, really, they were like-
Gabby: Listen, I remember, I mean, we all have those stories.
Maria: You know!
Gabby: My tía was- my tía and my cousin, they were 9/11 first-responders.
Maria: [Exhales] Oof. Ooh.
Gabby: And they worked at Ground Zero for months, and months, and months.
Maria: [Sucks air between teeth]
Gabby: My tía got cancer while she was pregnant.
Maria: ¡Ay, nooo!
Gabby: They studied her at Presbytarian Hospital because she was a pregnant woman working at Ground Zero, so it’s like-
Maria: Is she okay?
Gabby: I mean, yeah, she’s okay, the baby was okay, right? So, yeah, like, we didn’t know if any of our relatives were alive-
Maria: Exacto, exacto.
Gabby: -because they’re the first ones that went in, you know. So it is a, it is an intense –
Maria: And so then, and so then, then you find the joy that they’re alive, right?
Gabby: Yes. Yes.
Maria: There’s nothing like that joy. But then we’re also dealing with the fact that people lost everything. One of the people who helped me to understand the communication between this side of the atmosphere and the other side, in other words, people who are on the other side, people who have left us, the spirit world, was the mother of a white banker from the suburbs of New York.
Gabby: [Intrigued] Okay.
Maria: His name is Welles, may he rest in peace, Welles Crowther. We did a story about him because he ended up saving a lot of people before he died, and everybody knew it was him, because he had a red bandana tied on his face.
Maria: And so many people were like, ‘He saved my life, but all I knew is that he had a red bandana.’ And we found out it was this young man named Welles Crowther. And his mom, when I went to interview her, it was at the year anniversary, and she just said, she was the one who said, ‘Yeah, no, he comes to me, like this, and he appears like that.’ And you know, when most people are talking like that, people are like, [cringe tone of voice] ‘Oh, I don’t know.’
Gabby: We gotta roll back, right. [chuckles]
Maria: After 9/11, with so many people dead, so many spirits, it’s like we needed to understand how to make these contacts, these connections, these- not feeling afraid. I mean, I’m Mexican, por Dios! El Día de los Muertos, you know what I’m saying?
Gabby: Yes! Yes, I do.
Maria: So, but, but today, it was like I wanted people to understand that in the midst of a tragedy, you can learn something from someone who you would normally be like, [sucks teeth] ‘I have nothing to do with you! You’re a banker family,’ we never talked politics, but, ‘You’re a banker family, World Trade Center, you know, white, wealthy, from the suburbs. What are you going to-’ And it’s like, yeah. And 9/11 taught us that joy, to see ourselves in the people most unlike us.
Gabby: I-,I-, I would have to agree. I feel like there was definitely a moment of, like, intense, like, everyone, uh, ‘We are standing by each other, we are here for each other.’
Maria: Hell yes!
Gabby: ‘We are New Yorkers.’
Maria: Oh my God, remember how people looked at each other on the subway?
Gabby: Yea- oh m-, yes!
Maria: And you were just like, ‘No man …’
Gabby: Like we all just wanted to hold each other.
Maria: Yeah! We were holding each other, with our eyes!
Gabby: We were. And, listen, not to like, you know, it’s 9/11, but not to completely focus on that, there was something that you were saying, right as we got into 9/11, you were like, ‘As a journalist, I’m surrounded by all this pain, and all this tragedy,’ right? And that ‘it’s, like, our job,’ uh, not ‘our job,’ but that in that tragedy there’s the joy, right? And Maria, like, that’s one of the major reasons why I’m talking to folx about joy right now. It’s because I feel, like, just as a queer and trans person of color, there is so much, uh, coming our way, there’s so much pain and suffering and trauma that we’re experiencing. And I feel like a lot of times, it’s like, we become trauma-bonded.
Maria: [Quietly] Yeah!
Gabby: And all we want to do is talk about our trauma and commiserate, and, like, rehash all the pain and the misery. And you build community that way, but also there’s no release, right?
Gabby: There’s no way to, um, take a break, and so that’s why with this, with Joy Revolution, I’m here and I’m like, yes. And my joy has trauma, my joy has pain, my joy has suffering, my joy takes the world and, and, and these politics and these politicians head on. You know? And so that is, like, the magic in us. And, and, and, and another piece of finding the joy is that it relieves the inane, like, story time that is solely trauma-focused. And that’s something that I f-
Maria: Yes! Yes!
Gabby: -find really inspiring in your work Maria, is that when you talk to Indya Moore, from Pose, and Mj Rodriguez, when you talk to me, when you talk to women experiencing femicide in Mexico, right? That live episode that you did in Mexico City.
Gabby: You are also expanding the narratives and allowing us to be joyful and real. And not be these one-note trauma stories. So I would love to know, like, what the intention is that you have when you craft these stories that go beyond just a pain narrative?
Maria: I think it’s because the way that we, we connect through our stories, right? Em, and it’s, yeah, there’s going to be suffering there, but it’s about, it’s about everything that’s b- I mean, people are not just their suffering!
Maria: The story that I just told you about, connecting with a woman, coño, who ha sufrido mucho, oséas, but there’s more than just the suffering, right?
Maria: And so I want to give that, I wanna give that multidimensionality to who we are. Em, so, yeah, I mean, you know, it is hard, I haven’t been-
Gabby: Is there ever pushback? Like, you know, ‘cause I feel like there’s this- people want the clickbait, they want the, like, bloody photo, they want the, like, screaming and the pain. Have you ever had to fight and be like, ‘No this is a whole entire story.’
Maria: Well I think we try to do that on Latino USA all the time. And, and by the way, you know, my staff is, we work as a team, right, it’s not just one person. I mean, like, we do, the staff really does collective edits on the story so that we get it right. So that we’re sensitive that it can’t just be focused on just someone’s trauma, it’s gotta be something more than that.
Gabby: For sure.
Maria: Because if you understand the whole person, then you can get closer to understanding their trauma, right?
Maria: It’s like-
Gabby: And their life!
Maria: And their life!
Gabby: Just their life, the- what, what makes them feel, like, seen. What makes them feel affirmed, and, like, connect to them on this level where, you know, like, when people don’t just ask me questions about being a queer Latina. When they want to know, like, where I came from, what my neighborhood was like, who my mom is, you know, like-
Maria: Do you get that? Like all people just want to, ‘So tell me ab-…’ oh my God.
Gabby: [Laughs] Yo, you’re hip. You know that, right?
Maria: [Laughs] Wee-hee-hee-hee!
Gabby: Like, you’re fly, and you’re fresh, and you stay ready, Maria, like, you know-
Maria: [Laughing] I try! I try so hard!
Gabby: I feel like there’s a lot of Latino journalists that, like, or news people, that to me, if I watch them exclusively, I would never know that there were, like, queer Latinos, or queer people. They follow their own little boring world. But you, you’re interviewing, like, everybody, you’re talking, you know. And I’m like, ‘Look at this human being, who has their own set of identities, and is still able to, like, be present and aware of what’s happening in the world of other folx. And so I would love if you could offer some insight into how you do that, because, you know, it’s like, it makes me think of all the white ladies that are like, [imitates high-pitched white lady affect] ‘Um,…’
Gabby: ‘…could you tell me, like, where I can find books by people of color?’ And it’s like, ‘Bitch, what are you talking about? Like, you just turned your backyard into a Japanese garden, you Googled that shit, right?’ Like, [cackling]
Gabby: But you can’t find one other author of color?? Like, what the fu-[trails off, laughing]
Maria: Apparently there was a white man recently who said, um, a white male journalist, who said at a conference something like, ‘How can I come down to where they are without making them feel bad?’ It’s like, well, you ain’t coming down to anywhere!
Maria: So that is, I think it comes from my, mi abuelita, you know, ‘cause I’m like, ‘Where did this come from?’ My grandmother, as we say in Mexico, was a- tenía una pata de perro, which means, it’s a dog’s foot, and that means she would go everywhere and anywhere. Like, she was like-
Maria: You know, like, she was just a woman all about, bueno, la verdad es que my grandfather, may he rest in peace, may both of them rest in peace, so he had this thing going on where he had casa grande and casa chica, do you understand that?
Maria: So he had two-
Gabby: Two women.
Maria: Two wives.
Gabby: Yeah, uh-huh.
Maria: And so my grandmother only had him for the meals, la comida.
Maria: But he lived with the other- and I talk about this, and people are like- but why write about this? So it’s like, I’m not, my mom goes, like, it’s like, it’s okay. Em, so, as a result, my grandmother, I think, was really like, in some ways, like a single mom and so would be out there with the tías, and the this, going, getting in the carros in the 1940s and ‘30s in Mexico. Y, you know, going out, and exploring and seeing!
Gabby: Oh, she was like, ‘Yeah, go ahead, you could be with that!’
Maria: Yeah! But what she was doing was, ‘cause remember, if you got outside of Mexico City proper, it was rural areas. It was poor people, it was indigenous people. That’s where they were hanging out. And so my mom, I think, picks this up. And my mom, I learn from her that she talks to everyone. ¡Todo el mundo! From the person who is, you know, the highest whatever in the wherever we may be, to the person who is cleaning.
Gabby: Yes! Yes!
Maria: And speaks to them in the same tone, and the same kind of respect.
Gabby: Look at that! General respect!
Maria: General respect.
Gabby: Why is that, like so hard, for some folx?
Maria: Because [chuckles], because of white supremacy, because of the patriarchy, because of misogyny, because of, because-
Gabby: [Sighs] Because of so many things.
Maria: Because of so many things. You know, I was actually talking with my son, Raul, about this, um, actually my daughter, we were having a conversation about how they were raised, and I was like, it was about basic respect. They were like, ‘We knew respect for elders, family, for anybody invited to the house.’ And I was like, ‘And the people invited into the house would include el paisano Mexicano who was delivering the pizza.
Gabby: [Quietly] Yes.
Maria: You know, sometimes we would eat pizza. [Jokingly clears throat] Ahem, ahem.
Maria: And it would be like, ‘¿Paisano? A ver, pásale. Would you like a drink of water?’ ‘Sí’ ‘Pásale, okay.’ You know, and then I would say, ‘So, where are you from?’ ‘Oaxaca.’ ‘Ah, how many languages do you speak?’ ‘Mm, five.’ ‘Ah, yeah?’
Gabby: [Quietly] Wow!
Maria: ‘Mixtec, Zapotec, English, Spanish, and a little bit of Korean.’ And then I would say to my kids, ‘Look at this man here, who people look, and would dismiss’-
Maria: ‘Cause he’s on a bike, he’s got a small, tiny, little jacket, he’s freezing, it’s raining, he’s delivering, you know, he’s getting a three or four dollar tip from you, and people are dismissing him, won’t let him come into their house. This man is speaking a language that is ancestral and it’s your ancestors!’
Maria: ‘It’s a language that existed before English! And he’s right here in our house!’
Gabby: Yes! Wow.
Maria: ‘So when you see a Mexicano delivery man, you don’t see somebody who is disposable.’
Maria: ‘You see your own roots in him.’
Gabby: Mm! I mean that, that, that’s the only way to be in this world, right? Like, that’s the only way that I can understand being in this world is to, like, take a step back and be like, everyone that’s coming into this space, is coming with their own histories, their own ancestors, their own stories, their own expertise! You know what I’m saying? Like, making all that room-
Maria: But let me, can I ask you a question? For you, when someone is questioning who you are, it’s at so many levels.
Gabby: [Laughing] Yeah! Yeah, it is! You know what’s so wild, it’s that, like, I try really hard not to even deal with people that are questioning anything about me. And that is-
Maria: So what do you do? Do you smile? Do you just be like, ‘Yeah, nah.’
Gabby: Nah, listen is kind of like how I treat men when they talk to me, like, I just walk away, because, why do I [chuckles], why do I gotta say anything to you? [laughs] Like, who are you? You know? And not like, you know, not like every single man, you know, but, like, if a man is trying to tell me something about myself, or if I’m misbehaving or talking too loud, I’m like-
Gabby: ‘I’m walking away. You’re obviously not talking to me! ‘Cause, you know.’ [Chuckles]
Gabby: And then, like, even this! Like, this podcast, this is off of my saved dime! Like, I’m not trying to reach out and get nobody’s grand, I’m not begging, I’m not asking, and I’m tired of being rejected, so I’m making my own lane and my own space, you know? However I can, with my communities, with folx that are like sharing in my identities. Like, I don’t want to- I don’t even need to be invited to your table, because my table outside is more fun and we could smoke weed and drink!
Maria: Wait, you do that stuff?
Gabby: Yeah, we do that! Listen, Maria, like, we are like, we are like, I have missed-
Gabby: -all the signals from my best producer, Kat.
Maria: That means I’m going to have to come back, I guess.
Gabby: You’re going to have to come back, um-
Maria: Then we’re going to go smoke weed?
Gabby: [Cracking up] Yes, then we’re going to go smoke weed.
[Transitional musical beat starts softly playing in the background]
Gabby: Maria! We are moving into what I like to call, what we formally know here at Joy Revolution as:
[Crashing lightning sound]
Gabby: [Dramatic, deep superhero voice with echo] Lightning Jooooy! Hahahahahaha!
Gabby: I’m going to ask you, Maria, I’m going to ask you these questions about Joy. You’re going to give me one-word answers. You have 30 seconds to answer as many questions about Joy as I can throw at you. Get your gameshow hat on.
Maria: Damn, I don’t, okay, I don’t do well in these situations, but alright!
Gabby: How we doing on that timer, Kat Lazo, producer extraordinaire?
Kat: Thirty seconds on the clock!
Gabby: Oh my God, Lightning Joooy, pew pew pew pew!
Maria: Pew pew pew pew!
Gabby: Maria Hinojosa, if Joy was a movie from the ‘80s, which one would she be?
[Suspenseful quiz show beat plays in the background]
Maria: If Joy was a movie from the ‘80s- see, now, I hate this shit!
Gabby: Okay. Maria Hinojosa, what does Joy sound like?
Maria: [Chuckles] [Screams] Whaaaaaaa!
Gabby: [Giggling] Maria Hinojosa, what sport does Joy play?
Maria: Uhh, nothing that involves a ball.
Gabby: What kind of pizza does Joy order?
Maria: [Makes slurp sound] Ooh, just a deep dish, cheese from Chicago!
Gabby: What does Joy smell like?
Maria: Ummm, patchouli and wheat.
Kat: [Distant, deep “Yeeeeaaaaah!” in the background]
Gabby: Yeah! [Chuckles] High-five!
[High-five slap sound]
Gabby: Oh my goodness.
[Joy Revolution theme song softly plays in the background]
Gabby: They know now you want Maria Hinojosa to be your tía, too, and you can do that by following her [giggles] on Instagram @Maria_La_Hinojosa.
Maria: I know, it’s kind of crazy.
Gabby: Twitter @Maria_Hinojosa, and check out what’s going on at Futuro Media by going to futuromedia.org. And, also, if you’re not listening to Latino USA and In the Thick, you need to get on it. As always, a big Thank You to the Joy Revolution family. We’ve got audio god Marcela Carbajal [whistle sounds], Julissa Contreras, studio manager, music genius, Angelica M. Rodriguez, and producer of my entire heart, Kat Lazo. And I’m your host-
Gabby: [Giggles] And I’m your host, Gabby Rivera. And you can follow me @QuirkyRican. And if you haven’t already, remember to jump on the Joy ride and subscribe to the podcast that asks, ‘How do you prioritize Joy?’ Because we’re meant to thrive, not just survive. Ping! P-p-p-p-p-p-ping!