Whitney, Bonilla Hernandez discuss The Red Note podcast for feature profile in Le Chat Magazine
Earlier this month, the director and producer of The Red Note podcast, Craig Whitney and Estefania Bonilla Hernandez, sat down with Mexico's Le Chat Magazine to talk about the challenges they faced in making this project and sharing the story of the femicides in Ciudad Juarez with the world.
An English translation of Le Chat Magazine's feature story about The Red Note podcast is posted below the fold.
You can also read the original Spanish article on Le Chat's website by visiting the following link: La Nota Roja: Un Podcast Sobre Feminicidios en Juarez
The Red Note: A Podcast About the Femicides in Juarez
By Jacobo Villalobos / Le Chat Magazine
More than two decades of femicides are addressed by 'The Red Note', one of the most listened to podcasts of 2020. It was led by director Craig Whitney, producer Estefanía Bonilla and journalist Alicia Fernández, with the collaboration of host Lydia Cacho .
This podcast robs from oblivion the violent deaths and disappearances that occurred in the border city of Juárez, in Chihuahua (Mexico). The work of the team soon became a social concern that made ‘The Red Note’ a historic document.
“We did less journalism work and more analysis of the evidence and the shape of the problem in a systemic way,” Whitney explains.
Each broadcast interweaves a detailed account in which public records and real testimonies of those affected are brought together. From investigators and officials to parents looking for their daughters.
It is this work that has earned the project listeners around the world and an iHeart Podcast Award nomination. However, for its creators, the real achievement is keeping alive the story of the countless victims.
STARTING WITH A SHOOTING: CHALLENGES AND OBSTACLES
Some of the challenges faced by the ‘The Red Note’ team involved the remote recording of Lydia Cacho's voice, their working routine and the composition of the script. However, they also had to face larger, more intimate obstacles.
During the 2nd day of investigation, while conducting an interview at the Municipal Institute for Women, the team was involved in a shooting. “It was one of those fortuitous things that breaks your entire mental and emotional scheme. You understand what you came here to do,” says Whitney. “This experience sensitized me. It stopped being a merely intellectual exercise to be a circumstance that called us to take a firmer personal position”, Bonilla relates. Other challenges were related to the team's feelings when dealing with the interviewees. At the same time, be aware that although they were dealing with a violent city, they were still dealing with "beautiful people", affected but affable.
To do this, Alicia Fernández, the journalist from Juarez on the team, served as a hinge to better reach the interviewees. Due to her quality as a local, Fernández was able to establish empathy with those consulted and advise the rest of the team on how to carry out the interviews.
The balance was established in a tense relationship between being sensitive to the context and not abandoning a conscious position of reclaimation. Share the stories of the victims, but do not re-victimize them.
‘THE RED NOTE’ AGAINST A SYSTEMIC EVIL
"The case of femicides is systemic and involves a multitude of elements that are not exclusive to Juárez," explains director Craig Whitney. In his opinion, the murders of women in the border city are the consequence of a high degree of corruption and apathy on the part of the regional justice system.
For Whitney, this problem cannot be solved by the Juárez authorities without the support of the federal government and multiple international agents. In this regard, remember that many of the entities that take part in Juárez's corruption are in the United States.
For her part, Bonilla points out that “to end this problem, we must start by stopping seeing women as private property […] We must transform that idea, which already dates back millennia, where women are seen as a currency of change".
"The podcast is just a tool that we were lucky to create to contribute another grain of sand [...] You have to keep talking and you have to keep pointing out the things that are wrong."
In the opinion of both creators, the solution to this systemic problem has to count on the help of an emotional order: "It has to do with mercy and the recognition of one another," explains the producer.
Facing this challenge, Bonilla weighs the value of alternative media, such as podcasts. "The media do a lot: they help to replicate the speeches, the events that occurred and to present a reality that others live."
BEYOND VIOLENCE: DREAMS AND DESIRES
‘The Red Note’ team takes its report one step further. That Juárez is an extremely violent city, it is already known. These reporters go against the tide: they try to defuse the image of the city. To do this, they shed light on the people who inhabit the area, who suffer, love, dream and live.
The objective of framing Juárez not only as a city of murders is set in two quotes that appear, respectively, in the chapters that open and close the podcast. "It is seeing the face of the city, its people full of life and giving an account of the rich culture of the border, unique in the world."
"This (violence) is just one part of the city, there are also people with jobs and dreams," explains Whitney. “Being from the border is an honor,” says José Luis Castillo, father of Esmeralda, a young woman who disappeared in 2009. “We are noble people, hard-working people; Overwhelming people! We are willing to give everything for our family. And even with the problems we have, we move on, even if we have to cry."
“I did not ask to be born in Juárez, but here I am. I could leave, but I think you are part of the construction of this world. And I have learned that fighting is how I can change the world, even if it is my little world", declares a member of the feminist movement, Hijas de Su Maquilera Madre.