Hosted by Angelique Hechavarria and Jackie Ibarra

Editor’s Note: This is a transcription of Latinitas Magazine’s SoundCloud podcast “20 Questions With,” where we invite bold and creative individuals to discuss their experiences and background. Listen along by clicking the link!

Hola Chicas! Welcome to 20 Questions With. A podcast in conjunction with Latinitas Magazine. Latinitas Magazine is a strong voice for Latina and POC youth, which is why the hosts of 20 Questions With are all young Latinas who are looking to gain experience in innovative and creative fields just like you. In each episode, you’ll hear from striking individuals who are inspiring today’s youth with their passion, motivation and grit. Today, join Angelique Hechavarria and Jackie Ibarra as they sit down and ask 20 Questions With journalist Nancy Flores.

Before we get started, here’s what you should know about Nancy:

Nancy is an award-winning bilingual journalist based in Austin, Texas. In her 17 years of storytelling, she has reported everywhere from Mexico City to Michigan. In Austin, she mostly wrote for the Austin American-Statesman and Austin360, writing breaking news, festivals, and features and community affairs. Being the daughter of Mexican immigrants. She has specialized in covering underrepresented Latino communities in Central Texas. Her contributions to Austin’s Latino community have earned her the Award of Excellence in media arts from the city’s Mexican American cultural center. In 2019, Remezcla named her among the nation’s “Latino Columnists You Should Be Reading.” Today, she is a news entrepreneur, editor, and publisher of Austin Vida, a soon-to-be relaunched digital publication focusing on Latino culture and community.

So let’s go ahead and hear what Nancy has to say.

ANGELIQUE: Hey, everyone, thanks for joining us on this episode of 20 Questions With. I’m Angelique Hechavarria, and I’m here with my co-host, Jackie Ibarra, and today’s guest, Nancy Flores. Let’s get started with the questions! Would you be able to tell us your story about how you got involved in your career in the field of journalism, or why you wanted to get involved in that field?

NANCY: Sure, you know, I’ve been a journalist for 17 years now working in newsrooms across the US and in Mexico. You know, journalism really interested me just early on for its ability to shine the light on important issues, but also tell people’s stories. I made it my mission a while ago to focus my journalism on underrepresented communities, and especially the Latinx community. And you know, now as a media entrepreneur, I’m getting to do that in a more deliberate way.

ANGELIQUE: Yes. And something that really piqued my interest is your work in photography and videography. So, I wanted to know, how did you get started getting involved in photography and videography?

NANCY: Well, you know, writing is my first love. But visual journalism is an incredibly powerful form of storytelling. You know, I spent a few years of my journalism career living and working in Mexico City as an independent journalist. And it was there that I picked up the video camera for the first time. In journalism, the more skills you have, the more marketable you are. And the more well-rounded journalist you become. So, at the time, there was no visual journalist in the Mexico City Office of Cox newspapers, which at the time owned the Austin American statesman, and at the time, most of my training up until then had been in reporting. So it was a completely new experience for me, but basically, you know, pitch them the idea because they didn’t have anybody I saw that gap there. Scary at first learning on the fly, but the more I did it, the more comfortable that I became.

ANGELIQUE: Yes. And growing up, did you envision yourself becoming a journalist?

NANCY: Yes, actually, I’ve wanted to be a journalist ever since I can remember. At the time I didn’t know what type of journalist or what medium I wanted to do. I just knew that I loved writing. You know, I enjoyed it and wrote for my elementary school newsletter. There were those UIL writing competitions called, “Ready Writing”. I did that, you know, I was the editor of my high school newspaper, and then my college newspaper. I even did a TV news show in high school that was produced all by students. I was just trying to get in there anyway I could, and to figure out what is this journalism stuff and is it for me. I’m not exactly sure how I got the idea in my head because I am a first-generation Mexican-American who didn’t grow up around career professionals. There’s no journalist in my family, but I do remember a teacher I had in junior high, who was a former TV journalist. And she was from the Philippines. And she would tell us about her amazing adventures reporting. And now as an adult and looking back, I think that probably had a big impact on me being a woman of color doing this. And she was chaparrita, like me, and was out there making it happen with all her incredible stories. And I was like, wow, like, maybe this is a possibility for me.

ANGELIQUE: Yes, and thank you for mentioning that because it goes in relation to our next question, which is I was growing up as a first-generation Mexican-American?

NANCY: Yeah, I grew up in a small border town called Eagle Pass in Texas. And it’s right across Piedras Negras Coahuila. My family went back and forth across the border often. To visit family, to go to the doctor. My parents’ hometown of Guerrero, Coahuila, wasn’t so far from the border. So, we spent a lot of time there growing up as well. My father had a restaurant there. I had my Texas friends who I saw like Monday through Friday, and then I had my Mexican friends who I saw on the weekends. And it was all very interconnected. I like to say that my life was braided with cultural strands that are impossible to untangle. And the reason I say that is because if you think about a braid, una trenza. It has like three strands and one strand is my Mexican heritage. And the other strand is like my American upbringing. That third strand is that middle space, where I can go back and forth. What makes that trenza work is its interwoven tightly, and it’s a beautiful trenza. That’s kind of how I think about it from growing up first-generation.

ANGELIQUE: That’s such beautiful imagery and example. In thinking about it, the middle part is sort of your own individual experience and your individual upbringing that sort of ties in both of those cultural differences. And how has your journey been as a Latina in the field of journalism?

NANCY: It’s no secret that there’s a lack of representation in the media. Not only in the coverage, but also in the journalists producing the work. There have been many times in my career where I’ve been one of the only and that can be challenging. It’s one of the reasons that I became involved with the National Association of Hispanic Journalists. I served on my local Austin chapter board, as well as the National Board. Their hashtag is: More Latinos In News, and I’m all about that, the more diverse our newsrooms are, just the better our stories are going to be.

ANGELIQUE: Yes, I agree, especially when there’s such misinformation in our community. That’s super important to have more Latinx representation. And this next question I love because I love music. I love Latin American music. I saw on your Twitter that you said music feels me. And I feel the same way. And I was wondering if you have a favorite artist song or genre of music?

NANCY: Don’t make me choose! I love music, just like you. And I’ve been writing about Latin American music for a long time as well. I’ve just had the privilege of meeting and interviewing just many greats in the music industry, like Lila Downs. I can remember back in my 20s, listening to some music that combined Latin rhythms that I was familiar with, like Cumbia with a more modern sound. And I just remember thinking like, what is this? I like this, but does this have a name? It’s not traditional Latin music. It’s not pop. It was genre-bending, for me, and it didn’t really have a name back then. Then later it became known as Latin alternative music, which is still not the best name for it. But I guess marketers at the time, like, created that name for the music that was coming out at the time. And actually, there’s a big gathering that just happened at the Latin alternative music conference, it’s held every year in New York. And yeah, it brings all kinds of artists together who are producing this kind of music. And you know, I think that genre speaks strongly to me, because it’s all about the merging of cultures and identity. And it really resonates.

ANGELIQUE: I love that. And growing up, I’m starting to see that there are more songs that are both in English and in Spanish. And I was wondering, do you have a goal or a dream that you would like to accomplish within the next couple of years?

NANCY: For a long time my dream was to become a news entrepreneur and own a Latinx media company. And in this past year, it’s become true and it’s kind of mind-boggling. When you get to that dream and have it become a reality. Austin Vida is a digital Latinx news and culture site and right now we’re in the soft launch phase. We’re aiming to relaunch later this year and the goal is to launch it successfully and have it become a financially sustainable business while uplifting our comunidad at the same time.

ANGELIQUE: Yes, I’ll definitely be keeping an eye out. So exciting! And what is your favorite part of your career?

NANCY: My favorite part is finding the heart of people’s stories. Over the years, people have trusted me to share sometimes very personal and challenging parts of their lives. And I don’t take that lightly. It’s an incredible privilege.

ANGELIQUE: Yes, that’s definitely my favorite part too, is the stories. Growing up, I loved mythological stories, stories from my family in the past and how they lived. And of course, growing up with Disney! You love the stories and the movies and everything. And do you have any advice or tips on conveying a story in the best way possible?

NANCY: Yeah, you know, to me, I think a big part of being a journalist is sometimes you have to be a professional listener. And A lot of people don’t think about that. But I think that the first step in trying to convey the story, is when you’re fully present and listening with intention, just to really understand where the person is coming from.

ANGELIQUE: Yes, I agree. And thank you, Nancy, for taking the time to chat with me today. I will be handing it over to Jackie.

JACKIE: Yeah, thanks for your questions. They are very insightful. And I liked hearing what you had to say. Because I felt like I was talking to someone that I grew up with. I have a couple questions. So my first one is what inspired you to start Austin Vida.

NANCY: Yeah, so you know, I asked him B that has a little bit of a history here in Austin. It actually started more than 10 years ago as a Latino lifestyle and cultural magazine, but it stopped publishing about five years ago. And during that time of those five years that there was no Austin Vida that we saw anti-immigrant rhetoric grow in the country, we saw backlash against the Latinx community, and of course, a racial reckoning in the country. And I thought it’s really time to bring new life to Austin Vida and to rebuild it for a new generation.

JACKIE: Wow, that’s awesome. I didn’t know that. And so I know you’ve kind of covered Latinx communities as a statesman reporter. Did that experience kind of help you push for the creation of Austin Vida or what made you realize that Austin’s Latinx community needed its own space?

NANCY: My years as a journalist covering Latinx communities definitely put me on the ground floor of conversations that were happening locally. And people were incredibly grateful when I would shine a light on the issues they were facing in the community, and even when I was highlighting, Latino arts and culture, but it wasn’t nearly enough of what needed to be happening. And Latinx people in Austin often feel overlooked as a whole and just not represented in the local media landscape. So I realized that it was time for me to dream bigger, and to help change that.

JACKIE: Yeah, totally. And like exactly what you said, Austin has a very vibrant Latinx community, but a lot of people tend to not know, just because of that lack of coverage and time. So, thank you! And what do you hope Austin Vida looks like content-wise, and what do you hope to be producing?

NANCY: Right now, you know, we’re in that soft launch period, where we’re gathering community input, and we’re listening to the community to help shape its new chapter. And we’re aiming to produce news and culture stories that focus on lifting our community. And we’d like to say, illuminating the resilience that it takes to be Latinx, in Austin. Our big focuses are going to be community and culture. And that’s going to be driven by what folks tell us.

JACKIE: That’s awesome. I love that. And as a Latina journalist, myself and a student, I’ve definitely felt my share of imposter syndrome in spaces where I’ve worked before. Have you ever dealt with imposter syndrome? And how do you overcome it?

NANCY: My gosh, yes! That’s a big one. And I think that you’re already steps ahead because you recognize it when it’s happened to you before, and you have a name for it. And I think for me that didn’t really become clear until later on in life. I think that the first step is just being self-aware and knowing when those feelings arise. Those feelings of you don’t think that you’re good enough or worthy enough, and recognizing that that’s not the real you who’s talking. That’s mostly out of fear. Right now in this entrepreneurial journey, this path is not easy. I’m blazing this new trail every day, I’m stretching myself like never before. And with that comes a lot of fear, and a lot of imposter syndrome. I don’t think that you overcome it, as much as you learn to move forward with that fear. I really like this example- I don’t know if you guys have heard of pretending that you’re driving a car, and imposter syndrome pops up, or fear pops up in the passenger seat. And they’re like, changing the radio stations trying to take the wheel and trying to distract you from driving, and you’re like, go away, I’m trying to get to where I need to go. And when we think about imposter syndrome, the trick is to become friends with fear. And to say, Hey, I’m going to be in the car. And I know you’re going to be in the car because you’re annoying and never go away. And I know you’re going to talk even though I don’t want you to talk. But here are the rules. Don’t touch my radio, you put your seatbelt on, you keep your hands on your lap, and I’m going to be driving, not you. Fine to hang around, but you cannot drive.

JACKIE: That makes perfect sense. Because I always tend to ask more seasoned journalists how they deal with it, especially journalists of color. And so a lot of them were just like, well, it’s always there. But you just got to learn that it’s not something that should hold you back. So I definitely like that car example. The Latinx community was also one of the communities of color disproportionately affected by COVID-19. Why is it important that there’s a space where the Latinx community can get news about this kind of thing, especially like Angelique was talking about with misinformation, and a lot of them not trusting certain organizations.

NANCY: There’s definitely been a lot of misinformation during this pandemic, and issues of trust, like you mentioned. It’s important to have the space to understand the cultural nuances of the situation. And when you start the coverage from there, already understanding and knowing the sculpture nuances that you don’t have to explain, when you start at that deeper level, then that resonates with the community and helps develop that trust.

JACKIE: Yeah, I like how you mentioned the cultural nuances. I recently started writing more about Latinx culture. And I was doing a particular story. And I find myself explaining to my editor why it was a story that mattered because I was like, culturally, it may seem like this, but it’s a big deal in our culture. And so I definitely like how you mentioned that because I think that definitely helps us when you’re reporting on important issues. I know there’s a page about what Austin’s Lantix community is saying. Why was it important that you get that feedback directly from the community?

NANCY: I think it’s important when the community is telling you that they feel overlooked in the coverage, that it is taken seriously. Their input, their feedback is going to help shape the direction of Austin Vida and we want to know, what do you think is missing from the conversation, what information for you is hard to find, what do you enjoy reading about. We want to have that constant feedback with the community.

JACKIE: That’s awesome and definitely needed. And what has been the hardest part about creating a space like Austin Vida so far?

NANCY: When the pandemic hit, everything just seemed so uncertain, and it was challenging to decide whether or not to move forward with Austin Vida, especially as the protest arose last summer, and people were demanding for change for people of color across the country. It then became clear to me that this was the right direction and that I had to bring Austin Vida to life.

JACKIE: That definitely makes sense with the pandemic and working from home, it’s hard to find that balance. I know, I’m still kind of struggling with burnout and stuff. So, how do you deal with burnout? Or how do you kind of give yourself a break and find that balance?

NANCY: Yeah, I go walking and hiking a lot. I’m doing the 52 hike challenge, which if you haven’t heard of it there are 52 weeks in a year. So, if you take a hike at least once a week, then you meet the 52 hike challenge. It helps me just to have a goal and to be able to track those hikes and to discover different hikes around the city and different places that I go to. I think in general, just being out in nature just brings me back to the center. In Texas, we recently had the winter storm that devastated a lot of our communities, but it’s also made me pay attention to the spring season where all of these plants have been coming back to life and seeing which plants are blooming again. And I don’t think that I’ve ever noticed that more than this year of this tiny little leaf and now it’s coming back. And then like, yay! Because of the craziness that we went through with the winter storm and having no power, no water and things like that. Just being out in nature in general.

JACKIE: I definitely have to try that because I understand exactly what you’re saying about how I didn’t appreciate nature before. In which I’ve been trying to get outside more! And so you’ve had a successful career as a reporter, what advice do you have for young Latina reporters who might be scared or lost? Or like I said, kind of don’t feel like they belong in that field?

NANCY: First of all, know that we need you, that your voice is so crucial. I would say to find mentors who can help guide your career, especially for first-generation folks out there. I know, personally, I felt like there was no roadmap that I could follow. I want to be a journalist, but, how do I get there? And that was just such a big question mark, for me. And journalism, and media, in general, is just a very competitive industry. I think it’s especially important for young Latina reporters to be able to connect with those mentors who can help them and also know that every path is different, what your mentor does is not going to necessarily work for you all the time. But at least you have that framework of knowing what to try and where to go. And you know, I think that’ll just help a lot along the way. And apply for internships, even if you think you’re not qualified, there’s no reason why you should limit yourself before somebody else says no. A lot of times we don’t apply for internships, or jobs or go out for things we want. Because we think that imposter syndrome kicks in and you’re like, No, I think I’m not experienced enough or I don’t have the qualifications they are asking for and we hold ourselves back before even trying, we need to try more. It’s like a numbers game, the more you try, then the more results you’re gonna have. That feeling scared is normal, and like I said, you put that fear in the car and say, I’m going to go ahead anyway. And that’s really courage when you’re scared, but move forward. That being courageous.

JACKIE: Yeah, definitely. And I like how you mentioned, as a first-gen, you really don’t know what you’re doing, and you’re just crossing your fingers and hoping for the best. And I definitely thought that way when I started college, and especially going into explaining to my parents that I wanted to go into journalism. And then it was like, Well, why don’t you just be a doctor? And I was like, I don’t like science. That definitely makes sense. So my last question for you is, what do you hope to be the future of Austin Vida? 

NANCY: I hope that Austin Vida is more than just a publication. I hope that it can help strengthen our community. I hope that when people see Austin Vida, that it helps them feel seen, and that it helps them feel like they belong. And I think you know, above all else, that’s my hope for Austin Vidan that people see it and feel and know that they do belong.

JACKIE: That’s lovely because I know that I would have definitely benefited from seeing something like Austin be that when I was little and seeing like, Oh, I can do this. There are other people doing it. Like Angelique said, we’ll be on the lookout and excited to read the first issue whenever it comes out. Thank you again for taking the time to chat with us today!

If you’re interested in pursuing a media career, make sure to visit us at latinitasmagazine.org for more information. Thank you guys so much for tuning in to this episode of 20 Questions With. We’ll see you next time.

About the hosts:

Angelique Hechavarria resides in Massachusetts, where she is a senior in high school. She is interested in all areas of STEM, biology in particular. Growing up in a Cuban and Colombian household, she loves learning about the history and culture of Latin America. With this, she also loves learning about and conserving artisanal craftsmanship from all over the world. Through her AP Literature and Composition course, she was fascinated by the art of literature, in which she participated in the poetry out loud competition where she made it to regionals. Through her new position in Latinitas, she hopes to highlight these interests and more to the Latinx community.

Jackie Ibarra is currently pursuing a bachelor’s degree in Journalism at the University of Texas at Austin. Currently, she’s a volunteer writer with Latinitas Magazine. She has experience with social media, videography, and audio journalism. Ibarra loves telling audio stories and writing about her Latinix roots, social issues, and current events. Her works have been published in Latinitas Magazine and her stories can be heard on the Daily Texan’s Spotify account. Ibarra loves to grow with whatever work she does! When she’s not working or writing, she’s either exploring Austin or keeping up with martial arts.

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