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a photo of Gustavo Sagrero

Gustavo Sagrero

New Voices '21

Tell us about yourself:

If you cut me in half and counted my rings, you’d see I’m more adept with an apron wrapped around my waist, a kitchen towel in hand, with more sweat than you could find a Rudy Juliani press conference. I’m at my most comfortable getting crushed by an onslaught of food orders and getting post-shift beers than anything else. 

For better or worse, the pandemic had changed all that. For all intents and purposes, my world had ended. I was furloughed, my lease in a cute Boston apartment was up, and my girlfriend and I had broken up. I soon found myself on a train ride home to Idaho, choosing to wait for the end of the world with my family, than stick it out on the East coast. I figured while the end came, I finally finished up school. I had a habit of dropping out before then, “You took a couple gap years,” said Sáša, my first News Director.

I think the school noticed my drive to finally finish strong. With the help of some wonderful professors, I found myself applying many of the lessons I learned working in the restaurant industry for 8 years to the stories I worked on at Boise State Public Radio as an intern. I just left that job, and now I’m heading to a fellowship in Reno at KUNR doing more of the same kind of work, but this time as a full-time reporter. I’ve already met a lot of wonderful people, and I’m excited to meet even more. I’m eternally grateful to the people who have helped me get to where I am now. 

A piece of yours or project (in any medium) that you'd like to share.

I’m drawn to Carnicerias, they’re my chapel that connects me back to my roots when I’m away from my family. The small locally owned shops are a genuine oasis in a corporate-filled supermarket landscape that’s always contenting to feel genuine. This feels true for any small, locally owned, mom and pop shop. Which is why I’ve begun to photograph them working with different ways of documenting life within them. Mostly it’s portraits, but the focus is to document them before the spectre of gentrification comes to take them. 

Andreas Gursky’s work was a big initial influence in seeing a value in this, but it’s taken on a meaning of its own that is much more different than his “99 Cent” and “99 Cent II”. 

A couple years back I also saw an online teaching ad about how Annie Leibovitz began her career by learning how to photograph her family. I took that idea and ran with it-now my family is all too used to me pulling out the camera to capture them in seemingly mundane moments that bring me the greatest form of joy.

You can find most of my stuff here.

What draws you to storytelling?

Me encanta el chisme. What is storytelling but sharing really good chisme that’s been given a beginning, middle, end and sometimes reworked over and over again by an editor?

Radio/Audio also creates a space that is intimate, and immediate in a way that print, or visuals never could. It demands only your ear for attention, but for that price, reality is broken into two. It’s a moment that’s only paralleled by sharing a meal with someone-it creates a powerful sense of community when you’re listening along to a story with someone else. 

What excites you the most about being a New Voices Scholar?

I’ve learned so much but most of all I’m inspired and feel enabled to continue to pursue a career in the field of audio. From conversations with my mentor Priska Neely, to seeing all the wonderful things my comrades are doing and achieving in this year’s cohort I am filled with ambition. I feel excited for everyone in what they do, which leaves me feeling fulfilled.

What’s playing on your radio/audio streaming service right now?

A lot of “oldies but goodies” music. Smokey Robinson, Linda Ronstandt, Los Panchos, Julio Jaramillo, Otis Redding, Freddy Fender, Paul Anka Stevie Wonder, the Righteous Brothers…

You know what, here’s the playlist. Also a lot of Corridos Tumbados, Bad Bunny, y Banda music.

Y’all might call me dorky for this but recently I’ve been listening to a lot of archived shows of Coast to Coast when Art Bell still ran that program. I just finished the Sellout from LA Taco about a city council's failure to serve it’s residents and I’ve recently started Extremely American, a podcast about the Patriot Movement produced by a former mentor and friend.

What’s the most underrated tool (technical or not) that you use in your creative process?

If I could only choose one, I think visuals. What makes for an exemplary visual, often has a captivating sound that creates a wonderful scene. Here’s a story about a Jaripeo that gave me wonderful photos, and also had wonderful, rich sound. Shoutout to my cousin for getting me tickets.

What is something you want to see more of in the industry?

I want to see more content being created by and for communities, and not about them. I want to see compensation to producers/reporters/editors/news directors for the cultural competency that is often non-existent in newsrooms without them. I love seeing people gas each other up. I also want to see more accountability in the industry.

Who/What are your radio/audio inspirations and why?

Recently, I’ve started listening to Kellen Trenal and Mikailah Thompson, hosts from the Quantum Theory podcast. I’ve only caught a few episodes, but from listening to them I love how they create stories not about community, but for community in a way that I can only hope to reflect in my work. 

I also love Art Bell. We took a lot of road trips as a family growing up, sometimes driving late into the night when Art was still the host of Coast to Coast on the AM stations. I was held captive on his stories of alien experimentation, demon possessions, shapeshifters, and Men in Black. Often out in the Idaho/Nevada desserts the open skies were immaculate on moon-less nights. My pops would also blast Art around bedtime as well when we fell asleep, no doubt in hopes of spurring on our imaginations as we drifted off into our dreams. What he’ll probably never know is that most nights I cowered under a dogpile of blankets afraid of aliens that would come take me. I got over that at some point.

Paul Harvey was another character from the AM stations. I could not be more of a polar opposite of Paul, but often they’d pass him on the talk radio station that my pops often was tuned into, with his iconic “....The Rest of the Story''. I couldn’t help but be enamored by his cadence, and the Steinbeck-esque tone of his pieces. I understand that Paul is part of a brand of conservatism that often appealed to right-leaning Catholics like me and my folks, and as the years have progressed I understand how that brand has often been oppressive to folks who aren’t straight, white, Christian, or conforming to gender norms. 

Ira Glass hosting This American Life was also a huge part of my inspiration. I could care less about their script-writing process at the time I discovered the show. What got my interest was how that show became a reference point for me on what being a citizen, and sometimes a non-citizen, of the U.S. is like. The show made the country seem so much bigger, but also much more connected and intimate at the same time. 

Gene Demby and Shereen Marisol Meraji are my two most recent radio inspirations, their work on Code Switch has provided a sounding board on a lot of things I’ve thought about when it comes to the construct of race and class and what it means to live in the U.S. as a son to undocumented parents.

Anything else you'd like to add?

If it wasn’t for Padre Jesus Camacho and his co-conspirators having their own segment on Boise State Public Radio in the Early 2000’s, I don’t think I would have ever come to know about public radio, or ever considered a career in audio/radio. He and others like him broke the mold and were creating radio for a community often overlooked in public radio, in a state that continues to overlook that community. 

Before social media, radio was central to a lot of working-class Latine/Latinx/Latni@ folks in how they were informed, and entertained. In many cases it still is.