April 13, 2007

Untold Stories from the Border Will Have Their Moment

By Raymond R. Beltran

Most journalists would say they have a stack of story ideas piling up back at the office. Award winning reporter Laura Castañeda has them, along with a dream to embark on new adventures.

For her, it was unveiling the story behind Tijuana’s legendary Miguel Lopez, or better known as masked Mexican wrestler Lucha Libre.

Having worked for mainstream media over the years, she understands that most ideas, or leads, can pile up into structures with a great wealth of intriguing and insightful stories that go unsaid, especially along the U.S. Mexico border.

So, she created Stories de la Frontera, a half hour television segment that creates a platform for journalists to begin digging away at those stories.

Award winning journalist, Laura Castañeda produced the show.

“The concept … why I started putting this show together was to work with journalists who’ve worked border issues and I don’t mean just drugs and immigration,” Castañeda says. “I wanted to find stories that you couldn’t find anywhere else.”

And it seems she did. The show takes viewers into places along the ‘frontera’ where they may not have been.

The most recent show, airing on KPBS and Cox Channel 4 later this month, leads with a feature by former Univisión Correspondent Carmen Escobosa about the McGonigle Canyon of North County San Diego, where the outdoor trees and dry shrub became a home to many migrant workers from South America.

The issue was beaten with a bat by mainstream media last year when anti-immigration activists pressured the city to evacuate day laborers, but to Castañeda, the story could have been told better.

“It’s been in the news and in the media but I don’t think the mainstream has done the story justice,” says Castañeda, who sought out Escobosa for this specific piece. “I know she could do the story [right].”

Putting politics aside, Stories goes also asks the questions that viewers may have been curious about or probably don’t know to ask, like, ‘who’s this legendary Lucha Libre and what happens when luchas shed light on their opponent’s masked identity?’

Are street photographers along Avenida Revolución in Tijuana really trying to fool tourists into thinking those striped burros are really zebras that they’re saddling for a snippet of vacation memorabilia? Mi San Diego TV news reporter Katia Lopez-Hoyodan takes viewers back to the origins of the historical life of the revered tourist attraction that’s become somewhat of a silly mascot for the nearby party town.

Denise Carvajal interviews Rafael Romo-Munoz, archbishop of the Catholic Church in Tijuana, who thinks Catholics who worship La Santa Muerte, the Saint of Death, are practicing ‘contradictions’ due to ‘ignorance.’ Church goers in Tijuana, who believe in her, feel otherwise.

“I’m taking a chance doing it in English,” Castañeda says. “But I’m tired of mainstream English language stations saying that Hispanic shows are for Spanish speakers. There’s nothing out there in English that could be viewed by non Spanish speakers that talks about the border.”

Most of the stories, like these, that go untold are due, she says, to a lack of connection that major stations have with the Spanish speaking community and the reports featured on Stories reflect that gap.

Although, lack of funds may only keep this project airing twice a year, because finding sponsors to cough up the $20,000 it takes to do one segment is such a challenge. An anonymous donor has fronted half that, and Castañeda has personally managed to pay the rest.

KPBS has been somewhat supportive with equipment, she says, and is the right channel for her show to inspire and educate.

The images and storytelling are alluring and the music scores are lively, with sound bites from Latin Jazz musician Bill Caballero and his Orquestra Bi-National de Mambo.

The stories reach into a culture that can only be captured with insight to the border community, Castañeda says. But she adds that it’s not only for Latino viewers.

“It’s journalism, so, we just tell both sides of the story,” she says. “It’s about doing stories and making sure they’re done right.”

Stories will air on KPBS-TV, Channel 15, Cable 11 on April 24, at 9:30 p.m. and on COX Channel 4 San Diego on April 27, at 5 p.m.

For more info about this show, visit the website www.storiesdelafrontera.org

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