Google Sponsors Cocotazo Media Podcast on Puerto Rican History and Culture


Centro Voices remind us that last month, Google introduced the inaugural class of their Podcast Creator program, a collaboration with the Public Radio Exchange (PRX). Here are excerpts of an interview with Centro:

The program aims “to increase the diversity of voices in the industry globally and lower barriers to podcasting.” Among the six podcasts selected was Timestorm, an audio fiction series that follows Alexa and Beni, 12-year-old Puerto Rican twin siblings from New Jersey, as they travel through time to learn about Puerto Rican history and culture, as well as the island’s connection to other parts of the world. The show, which premiered this past November, is produced by Cocotazo Media, an independent production company led by the creative team of Dania Ramos and Michael Aquino. As part of the Podcast Creator program, the pair was invited to attend a weeklong boot camp at the PRX Podcast Garage in Boston. Centro Voices recently spoke with Ramos and Aquino to learn more about their experiences at the bootcamp, including what they hope to gain from the program and future plans going forward.

Centro Voices (CV): What was your initial reaction to the news that Timestorm had been selected for the program?

Michael (M): I felt amazed and thankful. The PRX Google Podcasts creator program had over 6,000 submissions from over 100 countries. The odds were small. I was waiting for someone to say, “Just kidding!” It was a bit surreal. I had made a huge leap this past summer to leave a full-time job in order to follow creative pursuits—Timestorm being one of them. The moment we found out we’d been selected was reaffirming. I felt I was following the right path.

Dania (D): When we learned had made the top 20, I had to remind myself to stay calm, that they were only selecting six creator teams, and there must have been a lot of excellent submissions to choose from. We were ecstatic when we eventually learned that we were invited to be part of the program.

[. . .] CV: What does it mean to you to craft stories from a Puerto Rican perspective, in both the cultural and historical sense?

M: We both have different responsibilities in this process. Dania is crafting the story and I’m crafting how the world sounds in your ears. I’ll think back to my experiences as a Puerto Rican (and Cuban) kid who grew up on the mainland and visited Puerto Rico. I’ll think of the experiences of my father, aunts, uncles, and cousins. I let all of these memories influence my approach to the soundscape, music, and overall tone of the show. It’s probably not very obvious on first listen. But, for me, it’s present in the pace of the dialogue, the white noise of the coquis, the intensity of the rain. Urgency is a consistent theme in my design. I feel our history has always contained a sense of urgency.

D: I feel so lucky that we have the opportunity to create and share a story like Timestorm. I was born and raised in New Jersey, surrounded by Puerto Rican culture—both of my parents were very involved in the Puerto Rican community in Newark and we often visited family on the island. I saw firsthand how Puerto Rican identity looked and sounded like many different things, and that’s something we want to explore in Timestorm. Alexa and Beni are New Jersey kids to the core, but they have a genuine curiosity about who and what came before them. And it’s in exploring their culture’s past, that they start to take ownership over it. I think that plenty of kids (and adults) are going through or have been on a similar personal journey. (You know, minus the time portals and inter-dimensional travel.) [. . .]

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