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Hi, everyone, in this special episode, I'll be talking with Emmy Award winning journalist Illia Calderon, Illia co anchors, Univision nationally broadcast evening news show alongside Jorge Ramos.
She's the first Latina to anchor a national news desk for a major Hispanic network in the U.S. This month, Illia published her memoir, My Time to Speak Reclaiming Ancestry and Confronting Race. We'll talk about racism, intersectionality and Elías own reporting on femicide. Did you find it to be somewhat of a of a new experience, maybe even a struggle to open yourself up personally where as journalists we're taught not to do that?
It was one of the most difficult things to open. My heart actually had to rewrite many chapters many times.
You grew up in a region called Chocho, is that right? Correct. Correct. In a small town called is Minar. And let's say the state is Choko. It's in the Pacific Coast, in the West. So tell us what makes this region unique or special? Oh, we are. More than 90 percent African descendants were poor, were abandoned by the governments, affected by the corruption of our own leaders. But, yeah, we were at the same time Hopi when I was growing up, the first years of my life, we didn't have power.
We didn't have electricity. So my clothes and my uniforms to go to school had to be Iren with a charcoal iron. I had to walk miles and take a small boat to cross a river to go to school. It was hard, but I think it gave me the drive to fight for something to want to become someone to do bigger things. And when I was 10, I told my mom I wanted to move to Mayadeen, one of the biggest cities in Colombia where her sister and family lived.
So I moved to live with my mom and her family and do my high school in reality, and that is a city where I first embrace this and for the first time. Can you describe that? Yes, I was in sixth grade. Mm hmm. And it hurt me so much.
And after I felt so bad because I didn't know what to say and I decided to forget about the episode and I didn't say anything about it, not even to my mom, what am I going to say to her? And I decided just to keep it to myself, to keep it to myself. Those micro aggressions, the way they look at you, the way they they tell you with the body language and you don't belong here or they want to be away from you.
They don't want to be related to you.
Was that just something that you quietly learned how to live with?
I just erased them as if it never happens. And then I kept going. And growing up, when you go back to those memories, it is hard. I didn't want my daughter to feel like the same way I felt, and we started a long conversation that never ends. And I will never end, like taking every opportunity you have to talk to your kids about this and those microaggression so-called jokes that are offensive when to refer to a dark skinned person, our heart and we need to eliminate them from our upbringing.
So from what I understand, before you arrived here in the US, you had this idealized vision of what the US would be like. When did you realize that that vision you had wasn't necessarily true in my country?
Black people were always the service of the house or enslaved or the people working on the plantations. And for me was like, oh wow. But at the same time, I was reading Toni Morrison and I knew about the experience of the slaves in the United States. But when you come and you see you are in the news, you see the news every day, you see the difference and you can notice institutional racism.
Basically, you've experienced backlash against your identity as as a woman of Afro Latino descent. And that's that's essentially three different targets for me.
It's like being a minority within a minority, being black, being Hispanic and being a woman. The racism is very present in Latin America, from Argentina to Mexico, whatever. We had people enslaved that were brought from Africa against their will. In those countries, we have a history of racism. I am proud to be a black woman with my ethnicity being Hispanic or Latino. But my race is black. My ethnicity, culture is Hispanic.
I mean, your husband is Asian, you're Afro Latina, and you have a daughter who embodies all these backgrounds. And I'm so curious. Like what what it's like to live in such a culturally rich household.
It's just amazing. We knew we had different upbringings, different cultures, but we decided to embrace our differences and embraced where we are in common, the moral values, the respect, the discipline, the family values. We're all the same. So we tried to focus in what we have in common to start raising the family that we have today.
I wanted to ask if femicide or gender based violence directed at women is something that you've confronted in your professional life.
I actually dedicate one of the chapters of my book is called The High Price of Silence. And we traveled to Mexico and to El Salvador. It's hard in our countries is is even in Colombia. I'm talking about only Mexico, El Salvador, Colombia, Peru. We have so many cases of women that are killed because they are women, as I say, we are not found that somebody killed a woman, somebody assisting a woman right in. And we need to keep bringing the topic to the table.
We need to keep raising our voices so more women find a body and a healthy environment where they can raise their voices and where the stories can be heard and believed and we start to end the situation.
One of the underlying issues beneath all of this that has to do with with the corruption that Underlay's the malfunction of the judicial system in Latin America is drug trafficking. And that's certainly I mean, that's what ties our two countries together, Mexico and Colombia. And we spend at least one episode in Forgotten, explaining how the U.S. Mexico border became the gateway for Colombian drugs in the 80s and 90s.
Yes, we live in that era, in the 80s and the 90s, where the war between the cartels and the drug against the cartels was very hard to felt in danger all the time. All the time, every time you were going out of your house, you didn't know if you were coming back alive because a bomb was going to explode at a mall or the public place or just a street or they were going to kill somebody and you were just passing by.
You might as well be describing what is at certain periods. We don't even have to go to a faraway place to see these kinds of crimes committed against women here in the United States. We see femicide occurring.
We need to have a system that supports women like federal registration on a system of gender based violence. Our countries need to distribute more resources to prosecute those crimes. The police forces need to be well trained when they receive cases of domestic violence.
Certainly some of the things we witnesses as journalist, even though we don't experience them ourselves personally, they do have an impact on me knowing how to deal with all those experiences and the stories that you cover, the places you visited and the struggle or of the people you interview. Sometimes it's like, you know, it touches you at a personal level. Sometimes you cry when you go back to a hotel after listening to those skits, for example, in the caravan or a teenager that lost his mom there was murdered by her husband or couple.
It's hard in this book at the same time, worked like an outlet of those experiences that touch me and make me grow as a woman and as a professional.
Well, thank you so much for being our guest on this special episode. To read more about Illia Calderon and her story, check out her book, My Time to Speak Reclaiming Ancestry and Confronting Race. To learn more about femicide in Mexico, listen to our podcast series, Forgotten the Women of Juarez. I'm Monica Ortiz Uribe. Thanks for listening. Baby, love my baby, love. Hi, I'm Heidi Murkoff, host of What to Expect, a new podcast from My Heart Radio.
When I first wrote What to Expect When You're Expecting I was pregnant with my daughter Emma, and my mission was simple to help parents know what to expect every step of the way. That mission has grown a lot, but it hasn't changed. Fast forward now, Amasa, a mom. Hey, guys, we're teaming up to answer your biggest pregnancy and parenting questions from breastfeeding to sleep. Good tackling tantrum. Motherhood is the ultimate sisterhood, but it can be overwhelming if you don't know what to expect.
Listen to what to expect on the I Heart radio app, Apple podcast or wherever you get your podcast. Šamaš are you ready, Mom? I was born ready.