Petaluma podcaster co-hosts ‘Sonoma Confidencial’

Spanish language podcast looks at local Latino community|

Juan Carlos Arenas and Leticia Romo, creators of the local Spanish-language podcast “Sonoma Confidencial,” seek a public conversation with and about Sonoma County’s Latino community.

“The different twist is that I see this podcast more as American dream stories, instead of immigration stories,” Arenas explained.

Interview subjects for the show range “from Reynaldo Robledo from Robledo Family Wines to my mom, who sells tamales as her full-time job … all magical stories and all showing the human side of our people,” he added.

There have been a dozen entries in the series so far, including a recent episode that featured chef and restaurateur Mateó Grandos from Mateó’s Cocina Latina in Healsburg. Another segment featured Pedro Avila, vice president for student services and assistant superintendent at Santa Rosa Junior College.

A new episode in the series is recorded every Tuesday evening at Arenas’ home studio in Santa Rosa and released online the following Tuesday. Outlets include iTunes and Spotify, and the series is also available on Podbean.

“That’s for folks who listen on their computers,” Arenas said.

Romo, 36, a Petaluma mortgage lender, and Arenas, 42, a Santa Rosa construction worker better known as a local standup comic with a couple of independent film acting credits, started the podcast together four months ago.

“We’ve actually been working on it longer than that, to get the guests and equipment lined up,” Arenas said.

Arenas is used to performing for audiences, but for Romo, the podcast project is something new.

“I haven’t done anything super public before,” she said. “Now we’re introducing these stories about local people, from the everyday Joe to restaurateurs and vintners.”

The episodes range in length from one to three hours, in a deliberate move to give each profile some real depth.

“When you do a long-form interview, you can get into stories that people won’t usually tell to a news organization,” Romo said.

Some of the community members profiled are immigrants, and others were born in the United States.

“We start the interview with where they came from and how they got here,” Arenas said. “After an hour, you’re looking a regular person and you can connect with that person. Once you connect like that, there’s no way you can be hateful or prejudiced. You start to root for these people.”

For the immigrants, some of the stories are harrowing, Romo said.

“It’s humbling and sobering to know truly what it took for people to drop everything and come here,” she explained.

Arenas doesn’t necessarily see the Spanish language format as an insurmountable barrier to English speakers who aren’t bilingual.

“One way to learn and practice Spanish is by listening to stories from your neighbors. It’s a new way to hear the language, rather than the regular stereotypical shock-narco corrido disc jockeys,” Arenas said.

“Sonoma Confidencial” aims at ground-level reality on a local basis.

“This is a different take on what people think Latinos are all about,” Arenas said. “These are normal everyday people who get up and go to work.”

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