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This year, Latino USA released such diverse audio storytelling. You listened to immigrants in Mississippi, two years after the largest single-state immigration raid in U.S. history, the 20th anniversary of 9/11, weaving together the long-lasting effects of that tragic day on the lives of so many people, and the event’s impact on immigration policy, deep investigative journalism about the pursuit for truth and justice, whether it’s a man sentenced to life in prison for something he didn’t do, or dissecting the broken foster care system. Then there’s the portrait of LGBTQ+ icon, Lorena Borjas, or musicians and artists reflecting on their craft.

Here are our editorial team’s episode highlights of 2021.

Mississippi Rising

Maria Hinojosa interviews Yesenia and her daughters in Forest, Mississippi. (Photo credit: Reynaldo Leaños Jr./Latino USA)

There are too many of my favorites, so this is very hard. But one thing we are really trying hard to do is to have continuity with our reporting, so right now I’m thinking a lot about my return to Mississippi and being on the ground with the people who work in the chicken processing plants, many of them undocumented, many of them quite vulnerable, but still filled with extraordinary amounts of faith and hope.

One moment that will stay in my mind and in my heart is when the little boy was talking about how his heart felt when his dad was deported and what his heart feels like now that his father is back. I am glad that we are focusing on the American South, and telling the stories in one of the areas that is experiencing the most intense demographic change in our country. — Maria Hinojosa, Anchor and Executive Producer

“Mississippi Rising” is such a special show to me because it was my first time working with Maria Hinojosa out in the field. I witnessed her amazing interviewing skills and saw and felt her professionalism and compassion with every single person she met. The story of “Mississippi Rising” itself was so powerful because we heard from people in the community and how they were doing more than two years after the massive ICE raids in the state. As a reporter, I learned so much from this story and this experience and I cannot wait to help bring more stories in 2022. — Reynaldo Leaños Jr., Associate Producer

9/11’s Immigration Legacy

Illustration by Alex Charner.

One of my most memorable stories of 2021 is “9/11’s Immigration Legacy,” produced by Julieta Martinelli, Alejandra Salazar, and Victoria Estrada. I love this piece for several reasons, including its bold sound design —which we plan to do more in 2022— but mainly because it was a collaborative effort. I loved to see our producers working on this three-part show that weaved in so well together while preserving their different storytelling styles. Furthermore, the piece sheds light on the long-lasting and often overlooked effects of that tragic day on the lives of so many people, a different take on the traditional 9/11 annual story, and the kind of which only very few media outlets dare to do. — Andrea López Cruzado, Senior Editor 

Ahead of the 20th anniversary of 9/11, Latino USA‘s team of producers met to plan out the story we wanted to tell. Moving forward, we put together a stunning, hour-long exploration of 9/11’s impact on U.S. immigration policy—and every producer played a role in the making of this piece. This was a fully collaborative effort, and it was only as good as it was because we took it on together. I am so proud to be a part of this team, and episodes like this are exactly why. — Alejandra Salazar, Assistant Editor and Associate Producer

Unsafe In Foster Care

Illustration by Alex Charner.

My favorite was “Unsafe In Foster Care.” It was a pleasure working with Deepa Fernandes on this deep investigation and even though it was emotionally tough sometimes, I think we were able to shine a light on the structural problems of the foster care system in the U.S., as well as offering some hints into how to make some improvements that would benefit both the parents and the children. — Marta Martinez, Senior Editor 


The Wrongful Conviction Of Joseph Webster

Joseph Webster with Marie Burns and kids—Joquan, Dewayne and Tez. (Photo by Julieta Martinelli)

One of my favorite stories this year was also one of the hardest. I spent several years reporting on what became “The Wrongful Conviction of Joseph Webster.” For me, it reflects hope in the darkest places, the communal weight of disappointment, and the admirable conviction of people in a relentless pursuit of truth and justice against all odds.

“Wrongful Conviction” is a story about Joseph Webster, a man sentenced to life in prison for something he didn’t do. It’s also a complicated dynamic about loyalty, betrayal, the codes we live and die by, and the importance of family and hope. While in the end there is an immense sense of relief and joy, creating this left me with a lot of painful unanswered questions about the meaning of “justice.” — Julieta Martinelli, Senior Producer


Teresa Urrea: The Mexican Joan Of Arc

Photo by the University of Texas at El Paso Library, Special Collections Department, Victor Mendoza photograph collection, PH031.

I love podcasts where I learn something completely new, and this one is special because part of the story takes place in the regions where I grew up: Chihuahua and El Paso. I’d never heard of Teresa Urrea, the curandera and revolutionary who was exiled from Mexico when she was only 19, and I was glad to get to know her through such a deep and poetic piece. — Victoria Estrada, Producer

How I Made It: Amy Collado, Skate Advocate

Illustration by Jackie Rivera.

This episode is a mood. It presents a beautiful intergenerational story about a mother and daughter’s passion for roller skating, while teaching us the history of exclusion against roller skaters of color and their power in forming community. Plus, you will be dancing throughout the whole piece! The sound design is fun and uplifting, yet the storytelling feels deep and purposeful. After watching so many roller skating viral videos during the pandemic, this story felt timely and relevant. — Patricia Sulbarán, Producer 

How I Made It: Ayodele Casel

Photo by Michael Higgins.

My last interaction with tap before this episode may or may not have been “Happy Feet,” but I’m giving love to “How I Made It: Ayodele Casel,” produced by our fellow María Esquinca. As a former ballet student who put in the work but was never really that good, I’m fascinated by artists who started their training as adults. Just like how Ayodele learned Spanish at nine years old when she went to live with her abuelos in Puerto Rico, she learned about tap’s Black history as a college student. Both felt natural because they’re her legacy. To me, this piece is representative of the art stories that are our jam—we’ll call the appropriation of Black and Latinx culture into question and make you want to dance all in the same breath. Get you a girl who can do both! — Elisa Baena, Fellow

Lorena’s ‘Alcance’

Illustration by Alex Charner.

One of my favorite episodes of this year is “Lorena’s ‘Alcance’ ” produced by Julia Rocha. This episode is special because it highlights a very invisibilized community: trans Latina sex workers, and includes the voices of trans people to tell the story of such an important community figure in Lorena Borjas. It’s powerful for Latino USA to cover Lorena as such a heroic figure. This story demonstrates key structural issues in our healthcare and policing systems that render trans women, particularly trans Latina sex workers, vulnerable. Julia’s narration and research were helpful to place Lorena’s activism in crucial contexts. I walked away wanting even more! — Andrew Viñales, Fellow

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