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How a new Spanish-language podcast is helping Minnesota’s Latino community connect to political news

Antonio Elias, left, and Mitch Roldan
MinnPost photo by Ibrahim Hirsi
Antonio Elias, left, and Mitch Roldan recording their fifth podcast on Friday at the University of Minnesota’s Minneapolis campus.

Each Friday, Mitch Roldan and Antonio Elias go hunting for a quiet space.

Last Friday, they found it in an empty classroom at the University of Minnesota’s Minneapolis campus, where the pair set up a makeshift studio and recorded the fifth episode of Hablando Franco, their weekly Spanish-language news analysis podcast for the Latino community in Minnesota.

In the episode, Roldan and Elias talked about President Trump’s immigration executive order and how it’s affected the community; the latest news about the sexual harassment accusations of Fox News host Bill O'Reilly; and the next presidential elections in Mexico.

Those same conversations have been happening in the Latino community in recent weeks, said Roldan and Elias. But the goal of the podcast is to give more commentary and in-depth analysis to those kitchen-table conversations.     

Roldan and Elias, who work together as co-facilitators of a Minneapolis Public Schools engagement and educational program for Latino parents, have noticed a high demand for the platform during their work in the community — a demand that has become more pronounced since Donald Trump came to power in January.  

“We want to make sure that we know what this administration is going to do and share that information with our communities,” Roldan said. “We’re not reporters; we’re just two brown guys trying to figure out how we can make a little bit of positive contribution in our community.” 

The idea behind the podcast   

Roldan, who has been an avid podcast listener for the past four years, views podcasts as an “undiscovered treasure,” saying the Latino community should use them to stay informed about the current political atmosphere. 

Each morning, during his 45-minute commute to work, Roldan often switches between The New York Times’ “The Daily,” “In The Thick” and “Tamarindo,” which are available on iTunes and other podcast services like Stitcher. “It’s kind of being able to read and access information that could make my life better,” Roldan said.

Roldan later realized that podcast programs aren’t common among Hispanic Americans, though the community has seen big gains in mobile internet usage in recent years. In fact, 80 percent of Hispanic adults now access the internet through cellphones and tablets, according to a 2016 report from the Pew Research Center.

“In the Latino community, if you look at penetration in laptops or in desktop computers, it’s been much slower than other mainstream American communities,” Roldan said. “But if you look at the Latino community’s mobile phone penetration, it’s actually been at par with mainstream Americans in a lot of markets.”

With those stats in mind, Roldan began to develop the idea to create the Spanish-language podcast years ago, though he’d never translated it into action — until Donald Trump won the presidential election. “It hit everybody I know,” Roldan said of Trump’s victory. “Family. Fiends. Co-workers. Students. And the question we asked the next morning was: ‘What can we do?’”

Creating the podcast 

In the months that followed Trump’s election, Roldan and Elias noticed an increased fear of deportation among the Latino families they work with at parent engagement program at Minneapolis Public Schools.

After they wrapped up a parent engagement class one day, Elias said, a participant approached him and Roland to ask about what would happen to her children if she were deported — and what she could do to prepare for that. 

They told the woman about a contingency strategy that Latino leaders have been sharing with undocumented immigrant parents in the community: making a guardianship plan for their kids for the possibility of sudden deportation.

The woman then asked whether she needed to involve lawyers in the plan or if she could finalize the plan without legal papers — an experience that led Roland and Elias to create a platform to further discuss the issue with the community. 

“We knew that the same conversation was happening in the Latino community,” Elias said. “So, we asked ourselves, ‘How can we have something where people can have those kinds of conversations?’”

The result was Hablando Franco, which comes out each Monday on iTunes.         

Though the podcast is only five weeks old today, it’s already attracted listeners across the state, Elias said. Among them is Henry Jiménez, executive director for the Minnesota Council on Latino Affairs, who seemed fascinated with the founders’ efforts to connect the community through the podcast.      

“A podcast of millennials speaking completely in Spanish is very much needed in Minnesota,” Jiménez said. “Mitch and Antonio are familiar with current events in Minnesota and in Mexico. And they’re presenting it in a way that everybody would relate to.”

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