Broken Ground | Season 6 | Episode 3

Victoria Bouloubasis and Paola Jaramillo on Bridging Language Barriers

Whether its natural disasters or shifting political winds, Victoria Bouloubasis and Paola Jaramillo believe North Carolina’s Spanish-speaking population has a right to know about it. That belief fuels their work as a reporter and editor, respectively, at Enlace Latino NC. The outlet uses traditional journalism, podcasts, WhatsApp, social media and comics to connect North Carolina’s Spanish speakers to each other and the news around them. 

Episode Transcript



Host: This is Broken Ground, a podcast digging up environmental stories in the South. I’m Leanna First-Arai, your host. This season, we’re showcasing a few of the talented journalists and storytellers helping to fill gaps in environmental news and information here in the South. People like Cameron Oglesby, who recognized early on that biogas was an environmental justice issue and began reporting on it as a college student.

Cameron Oglesby: I was horrified. I was, I was angry. I was really disappointed. And so that was one of the reasons why I think I really leaned into journalism also is that educational tool, that gap filler, right?

Host: If you missed that episode, I hope you’ll go back and listen.


Host: In this episode, we’re turning our attention to a specific kind of news desert, the type that can exist in immigrant communities where language barriers, literacy levels, and internet access are just a few of the obstacles keeping folks from finding accurate news about their environment.


Leanna First-Arai: So Paola, can I ask: if it were not for the work that y’all are doing, what other outlets would Spanish speakers in North Carolina turn to for their environmental or for their climate information?

Paola Jaramillo: No hay.

Leanna First-Arai: No hay. There is nowhere.

Paola Jaramillo: Yeah.

Host: That’s Paola Jaramillo, a Colombian-born journalist. She’s been a reporter in North Carolina for 17 years now, and her work has won dozens of awards. Five years ago, she co-founded the state’s first nonprofit Spanish language digital news site, Enlace Latino NC. Enlace means “link” and the site makes a lot of them, connecting the dots between immigration, politics, health, and of course, the environment.


Leanna First-Arai: Paola, what are some of the specifically environmental or climate-related topics that you find the most engagement with in what you publish?

Paola Jaramillo: Definitely it’s about disasters.

Leanna First-Arai: Mm-hmm.

Paola Jaramillo: In the hurricane season, in the tornado season, this information is very important for our community, especially in the rural areas, because in the rural areas our community is alone. Only have a church, other families, a small organization to serve a big community. This is the reason that we, um, work with Victoria in our investigation series.


Host: The Victoria she’s referring to is Victoria Bouloubasis, an award-winning documentary filmmaker and freelance journalist who reports on environmental topics for Enlace Latino, among many other gigs.

Victoria Bouloubasis: I come from a Greek immigrant family. Have been in North Carolina since I was seven years old. I feel very southern, though it took me a while to get there.

Leanna First-Arai:  So the first project that y’all worked on together was, um, was an investigative series called Ignored and Forgotten.

Victoria Bouloubasis: Yeah.

Leanna First-Arai: And it details what happens to Latinos living in rural places before, during, and then after natural disasters. The upshot is basically that the alert systems don’t warn Spanish speakers in their own language and that means they’re often excluded from disaster response and recovery efforts.


Victoria Bouloubasis: Mm-hmm.

Leanna First-Arai: Of course that’s increasingly problematic since we know we’re living the warmest years on record, and that means more intense, more unpredictable, and more dangerous storms. Victoria, could you just read us an excerpt from that first article in the series?

Victoria Bouloubasis: Sure. This first article is titled “Before the Storm.”


Victoria Bouloubasis: After clocking out of a long shift at a hog farm, Lucia Mondragón and her teenage daughter stopped into Walmart on the night of October 6, 2016 for their weekly grocery shopping. As Mondragón pushed a cart through the store, she noticed other shoppers frantically raiding the shelves. Hurricane Matthew was making landfall near her home in Cumberland County, yet Mondragón had no idea.Her daughter, Alisson Herrarte, pulled out her cell phone and searched the web for what the emergency could be. “All of the information appeared in English,” she said in Spanish. “At that time, I didn’t know the language.” With no English proficiency, Mondragón, her husband and two children had immigrated from El Salvador two months earlier. This would be the family’s first brush with a deadly storm, but not the last.


Leanna First-Arai: That’s a powerful scene.

Victoria Bouloubasis: Yeah, I mean that’s what happened.

Paola Jaramillo: Creo que ésa es una de las historias que más, eh, disfruté a trabajar con Victoria.

ENGLISH TRANSLATION: I think this was one of the stories that I most enjoyed working on with Victoria.

Paola Jaramillo: Victoria worked very hard for, I don’t know, eight months, nine months, back and forth with the authorities.

Leanna First-Arai: Mm-hmm.

Fue bastante duro y difícil conseguir la información que contestaran. Victoria batalló muchísimo. La mandaban de un lado para otro. Nadie le daba razón.

ENGLISH TRANSLATION: It was really difficult to get the information. Victoria really fought. They sent her all over the place. Nobody would tell her why.

Paola Jaramillo: It was during the pandemic time. Was very important because during this time, nobody talking about the hurricanes, only talking about COVID.

Leanna First-Arai: Yeah, COVID really took over the news, so hurricanes – and basically everything else – received less coverage.

Paola Jaramillo: Nosotros hablamos con familias que tardaron dos años y medio en recuperarse. Que todavía vivían con toldos. No tenía sentido.

ENGLISH TRANSLATION: We spoke to families who’ve waited two and a half years in recovery – who still have tarps on their roofs. It makes no sense.

Leanna First-Arai: Mm-hmm.

Paola Jaramillo:  Entiendo lo urgente era la pandemia en ese momento, pero esto también es importante.

ENGLISH TRANSLATION: I understand the urgency of the pandemic at that moment, but this was also important.

Leanna First-Arai: And this series, “Ignored and Forgotten,” was not just published in Spanish, right? But you also published it in English.

Paola Jaramillo: Yeah.

Leanna First-Arai: Um, in fact, Southerly co-published it, and that happens to be where I first read it. But Victoria was this dual language thing new for you?

Victoria Bouloubasis: Yeah. You know, I was doing all my reporting in Spanish in the past and then handing off articles in English that my sources couldn’t read and I would translate for them over the phone or something. Whereas now I could give both links and they could read at their leisure and share with people who had different language capacities. So …

Leanna First-Arai: That’s awesome.

Victoria Bouloubasis: Yeah.

Leanna First-Arai: I wanna hear more about the work you’ve done together, but first can you give us, um, a quick and dirty of how y’all met?


Victoria Bouloubasis: I wanna hear Paola’s version of this first. I’m not sure.

Paola Jaramillo: Dios mío. Yo creo que estabas en la universidad. Carolina del norte fue pionera en el movimiento de los Dreamers. Así que Victoria creo que fue la única que hacía un cubrimiento tan profundo y tan especializado con el tema de los Dreamers y ella siempre estuvo muy involucrada con la comunidad Latina. Y de hecho la podamos la Griega. No era Victoria, era la Griega.

ENGLISH TRANSLATION: Oh my gosh. I believe it was at the University. North Carolina was a pioneer in the Dreamers movement. So Victoria, I believe, was the only one who was covering that topic so deeply and in such a specialized way. And she always was very involved with the Latino community. We called her the Greek. It wasn’t Victoria, it was “The Greek.”


Leanna First-Arai: La Griega!

Paola Jaramillo: Era la Griega.

Leanna First-Arai: The Greek woman.

Paola Jaramillo: Ella se ponía la camiseta.  Ya se subió al ring se puso su máscara y ella luchó.

ENGLISH TRANSLATION: She’d put on the t-shirt and she’d climb up in the ring and put on a mask and she’d fight.

Leanna First-Arai: Okay, so to be clear, we’re talking about Victoria performing as a wrestler with one of those full-face masked hoods like the, the Mexican Lucha Libre wrestlers. Is that right?


Victoria Bouloubasis: Right! You got it all, Paola. Um…


Victoria Bouloubasis: A friend and I started an all-female Lucha Libre League. So we did that to raise money for undocumented groups, but we, like, trained, we got custom masks and had multiple events.


Leanna First-Arai: So cool. Can I ask: how did you get so involved in reporting on DACA and all kinds of other issues facing the Latino community in North Carolina ?

Victoria Bouloubasis: I was involved in the Dreamer movement because my friends were Dreamers and these were folks that were my peers. And at first I was doing whatever I could do to help them and then I sort of switched and was like, why shouldn’t I be covering this? I feel … you know, you learn that you have to be super objective in J School, but really, I knew so much of what was going on in ways that I didn’t think other folks like me who were not, you know, Latinx understood as well.

Leanna First-Arai: Yeah.

Paola Jaramillo:  Ella ha habido un acercamiento más allá del periodismo, es más de su corazón. Y luego obviamente las seguíamos. Leíamos mucho lo que hacia con inmigración, con inmigrantes, con los alimentos, los restaurantes.

ENGLISH TRANSLATION: She’s had an approach really beyond journalism. It’s more from her heart. And so obviously we followed her. We read so much of what she wrote on immigration, about immigrants, about food.

Leanna First-Arai: Yeah, actually, Victoria. So here at Broken Ground, we first became aware of you because of your environmental reporting, um, and specifically work that you’ve done for Enlace and for Southerly. But before all that, you were writing a lot about food.

Victoria Bouloubasis: Yeah.

Leanna First-Arai: So connect the dots for us. What is the connection, as you see it, between your environmental coverage and your work in food and around food?

Victoria Bouloubasis: I started my journalism career in food writing because I grew up in a restaurant family there was a lot more than what was just on the plate. And through that, I learned about the way the agricultural system and systems of labor work in the South in particular. And so that sort of became my niche as I built a career starting at alternative news weeklies. So, I’ve always had a community journalism approach, which segued very nicely into working with Enlace Latino.

Leanna First-Arai: And even before you hooked up with Enlace, you were covering agriculture and labor issues pretty deep in immigrant communities in North Carolina. Were there other English-language reporters in some of those same spaces doing the same thing?

Victoria Bouloubasis: I’d be out east covering a farm worker union meeting, and yeah, I was often the only person writing in English as a journalist there.

Paola Jaramillo: Cuando había huracanes, ella era la que reportaba. Cuando había temas con las polleras, con los trabajadores del campo, siempre ella era la que sacaba la voz por la comunidad inmigrante latina. Tal vez no ha caído en cuenta, pero ella tocó temas que ningún otro medio, ni ningún otro periodista tocaba en inglés porque les daba pavo por lo que no sabían. Ella lo hizo. Así que eso fue fundamental.

ENGLISH TRANSLATION: When there were hurricanes, she was the one reporting on them. When there were issues with the chicken plants, with the farm workers, she was always the one raising her voice for the Latino immigrant community. Maybe she hasn’t realized this, but she touched on so many issues that no other media, no other journalist, would touch on in English because they were so afraid of what they didn’t know. So that was essential.

Leanna First-Arai: So she formed a, a really important part of the news ecosystem in the immigrant community.

Paola Jaramillo: Sí. señora, Así es, asi es.


Leanna First-Arai: Paola, can I take a step back and ask what inspired you and your business partner Walter Gomez, to start in lase back in to start Enlace Latino back in 2018?

Paola Jaramillo: Eh, después del 2016,  las elecciones presidenciales de Donald Trump, nosotros empezamos a ver la retórica en contra la comunidad inmigrante, especialmente indocumentada a nivel nacional, verdad?

ENGLISH TRANSLATION: After the election of Donald Trump in 2016, we began to see rhetoric against the immigrant community – especially undocumented people.

Donald Trump: You wouldn’t believe how bad these people are. These aren’t people, these are animals, and we’re taking ’em out of the country at a level and at a rate that’s never happened before.

Paola Jaramillo: Entonces empezamos nosotros a ver mucha información en las redes sociales, la gente preguntaba sobre cosas sobre va a llegar inmigración a mi trabajo que puedo hacer. Otras personas que se sentían ofendidas y nunca habían votado, empezaron a preguntarse sobre, oye, yo nunca votado. Que hago? Como consigo esta información? No la encuentro. Y las comunidades se fueron quedando con un vacío de información que empezó a llenar Facebook. Facebook sirve para muchas cosas, pero en realidad es que reinaba la desinformación. Así que eso nos llevó a pensar de que teníamos el deber – nosotros, como periodistas, de hacer algo.

ENGLISH TRANSLATION: We saw a lot of information on social networking sites – people asking things like ‘Will immigration officers come to my work? What can I do?’ Other people who had never voted felt offended started saying, ‘Hey I’ve never voted. What do I do? How do I find this information? I can’t find it.’ And communities were left with an information vacuum that began to be filled by Facebook. Facebook can be useful, but in reality, disinformation reigned there. And so that led us to think that we had a responsibility, as journalists, to do something.


Leanna First-Arai: Mm-hmm.

Paola Jaramillo: Todo eso coincidió con que se abrió una iniciativa NC News Lab en el estado.

ENGLISH TRANSLATION: All of this coincided with the start of an initiative in the state called “NC News Lab.”

Host: Yeah, for listeners, real quick, um, what Paola’s referring to is the North Carolina Local News Lab Fund. Um, and that’s an organization that provides grants that help support local newspapers and other, eh, information providers in the state. And on their website, they say that local news should be treated like, and I quote, “the essential infrastructure it is,” end quote. That’s an idea that has really resonated with us as we’ve produced this season, um, and that personally I wish was more widely understood and embraced. But yeah, sorry to interrupt you Paola. Go ahead.

Paola Jaramillo: No, no, no Alguien nos mandó y y nos dijo ustedes que están buscando llenar ese vacío porque no aplican a este grant? Un grant para noticias? Como es eso no existe no si existe. Y empezamos a buscar y en inglés había muchos medios y ya desde hacía muchos años, bajo la modalidad de sin fines de lucro. Dijimos ‘Bueno, intenté mulo ver qué pasa. Nunca habíamos escribió un grant. Empecé a buscar en Google cómo escribir un grant. Y lo presenté y nos dieron un grant muy pequeño, y así fue.  Me retiré. Yo fui la básicamente la que recibió pago el primer año. Nada más. Fui yo. Y ahí comenzamos.

ENGLISH TRANSLATION: Somebody sent it to us and said, ‘If you guys are looking to fill this gap, why not apply for this grant?’ And we were like, “A grant for news? What? That doesn’t exist.” And so we started looking around and sure enough, we found that a lot of English-language outlets had been working under that non-profit news models for years. And so we said, ‘Ok, we’ll try it and see what happens.’ We’d never written a grant. I started googling ‘How do you write a grant.’ We presented it, and they gave us a small grant. That was it. I quit my job. I was basically the only one on the payroll the first year. Nobody else, just me. And that’s how we started.


Leanna First-Arai: So now five years later, Enlace has grown to a half a dozen full-time employees, plus part-timers and freelancers, um, including you Victoria.

Victoria Bouloubasis: Yeah.

But together who are you guys writing for? Who is your collective audience?

Paola Jaramillo: Our principal audience is Latinos here in North Carolina, the first and second generation to speak Spanish as a first language. And undocumented Latinos in the rural areas.

Leanna First-Arai: And these folks aren’t just coming to your website to read articles. You also have a podcast.


Enlace Latino Podcast Host: Bienvenidos a Latinos en la Pandemia, edición elecciones …

Leanna First-Arai: That podcast has covered everything from the pandemic to political candidates.

Enlace Latino Podcast Host: Episodio número cuatro: nuestros candidatos …


Leanna First-Arai: How else do you reach your audience?

Paola Jaramillo: Right now we have four newsletters, one WhatsApp community.

Leanna First-Arai: Right. WhatsApp is the free, secure, private messaging app. You can communicate one-on-one or in groups.

Paola Jaramillo: Yup.

Leanna First-Arai: How significant is that mode of communication for, for you and your, your readers and your community?

Paola Jaramillo: We start in our WhatsApp channel with 50 subscribers. Right now we have almost 3000.

Leanna First-Arai: Oh my goodness!

Paola Jaramillo: Si.

Leanna First-Arai: What have you noticed that people are sort of most interested in or most in need of information about when coming across your various channels?

Paola Jaramillo: In the WhatsApp channel, this channel is more for conversation, because it’s more like one-to-one. Our readers write asking something, and we try to help with the answer.

Leanna First-Arai: Mm-hmm.

Paola Jaramillo: How we can get my green card? Como matriculo a un niño a la escuela? Como registra un carro en el DMV?

ENGLISH TRANSLATION: How do you register a child for school? How do you register a car at the DMV?

Paola Jaramillo: All information to answer how, where, when. This information is the more successful for us.

Leanna First-Arai: Maybe we could talk about the Brent Jackson Reynolds American work that y’all have done together. I think this is such a cool example of both producing this really in depth investigative piece, very collaborative, and then turning that into like one million other things that has the potential to reach and I’m sure did reach so many people. Could you, Victoria, maybe just give us a redux of that work?


Victoria Bouloubasis: There is a senator in North Carolina who’s been a state senator for a while, Brent Jackson. He and his family also own tobacco farms. He has been sued at least twice by union workers on his farm for not paying wages and other things that are considered worker exploitation and has had to settle and pay out back wages at least twice to groups of farm workers. One of his main buyers is Reynolds American which makes cigarettes. They have these rules put in place where they want workers to be protected, but they help fund and donate to his political campaign, and they have given more to him than any other candidate. So, they’re completely in bed with each other. So he has political power over the, any modification of labor laws for his workers.


Leanna First-Arai: So you co-wrote this article with a reporter named Ben Stockton from the Bureau of Investigative Journalism in the UK, also known as TBIJ?

Victoria Bouloubasis: That was a really great collaboration because TBIJ reached out to me and I asked them if they would consider also publishing with Enlace. And so, they were so on board and really excited about Enlace.

Leanna First-Arai: How did you feel about this story, Paola?

Paola Jaramillo: This story is important for us because this story bring to light why we don’t see anything in the General Assembly to favor Latino workers and the farm workers. Everything that you see is in favor to the ranchero. Not the farm workers.

Leanna First-Arai: Yeah.

Victoria Bouloubasis: And this is a man who runs uncontested most years and also wants to become Commissioner of Agriculture in North Carolina eventually.

Leanna First-Arai: Unbelievable.

Victoria Bouloubasis: Yeah.

Leanna First-Arai: So in October of 2022, this article publishes not just in Mother Jones Magazine, but also on the Enlace Latino website, plus in a major newspaper in Mexico. Um, we’re talking 20 pages, accompanied by photography by Cornell Watson, who turns out to be another one of our guests this season. But that’s not the end of it. You also created some additional content from the same material. Why?

Victoria Bouloubasis: It’s very unclear the literacy levels of folks even in Spanish. So, because Enlace does such an amazing job with their podcast, I thought it would be cool to do a behind the scenes of why Ben and I wanted to do this story and what we found and how we went about it. Because I also feel like when I talk to different sources in the immigrant community, you know, they have this idea of media being corrupt or maybe not understanding our role, thinking that we’re paying them to do something. And so it, it sort of provided like a media literacy angle, which is something I’m really trying to push here. Um,

Leanna First-Arai: That’s super interesting.


Victoria Bouloubasis: And then, Paola and TBIJ decided to do a comic though the reporting we did, so, um, created this beautiful narrative of how a worker can stand up for their rights based on this one particular case.

Leanna First-Arai: We’ll add a link to the comic at Broken Ground podcast dot org so listeners can see what we’re talking about.

Victoria Bouloubasis: It also was a piece for the worker, you know?

Paola Jaramillo: No necesita leer la historia para entender de qué se está hablando. Creo que es una pieza muy bien trabajada con mucho respeto, sin estereotipos. Logran que el lector se identifique. Y sienta que me están hablando de mi y me están hablando a mi.

ENGLISH TRANSLATION: You don’t need to read the story to understand what it’s talking about. I think it was really well done, made with a lot of respect, without stereotypes. And it made it possible for the reader to identify with it and feel like, ‘Hey, they’re talking about me, and they’re talking to me.’

Leanna First-Arai: Hmm.

Victoria Bouloubasis: This comic came out, I was blown away because it looked like what I was hearing and seeing as I was reporting. It really showed me a more, like, empowering version, which is what I hear in my interviews and try so hard, but with words, you can only do so much in print.


Leanna First-Arai: Yeah, the art is just striking. Paola, what kind of reaction, if any, did you get from the workers who saw this piece?

Paola Jaramillo: Our workers don’t talk too much because sienten miedo, you know, because everything is, uh, es una cadena.

Leanna First-Arai: You said they’re afraid cuz there’s kind of this chain reaction.

Paola Jaramillo: Si.

Leanna First-Arai: Can you say more about that?

Paola Jaramillo: Cuando ellos vienen de México, ellos saben que el ranchero tiene el control. Entonces que un trabajador se atreva a hablar un, es un gran logro porque ellos no quieren ver que no los vuelvan a llamar porque pasa. No es una represalia de frente, pero es una represalia. Eso es una cadena muy fuerte y muy complicada.

ENGLISH TRANSLATION: When they come from Mexico, they know the rancher is in control. And so if a worker dares to speak, that’s a big deal, because they don’t want to not be hired again, because that does happens. It’s not direct retaliation, but it is retaliation. It’s a really strong and very complicated chain.

Leanna First-Arai: Yeah, yeah.

Victoria Bouloubasis: There’s a reason why we use pseudonyms for the workers.

Leanna First-Arai: You already mentioned kind of how often people who have been underserved by news outlets in the past might have trouble trusting the press. So what does it take for you to earn the trust of people you’re reporting on and and reporting with?


Victoria Bouloubasis: You know, my reporting is a very long process because I have conversations even if I’m not doing, like, a recorded interview.

Leanna First-Arai: Mm-hmm.

Victoria Bouloubasis: The two workers I talked to last year, they were still in Mexico when I initially found them and called them. And then when they came, I kept talking. ‘You said this last time, can I quote you in the way you said this?’ And, like, ‘Is there anything you wanted to add to that? Or did you mean this?’ Because I wanna make sure that, you know, I’m not just extracting from them and they’re, they’re getting what they need out of it, but I’ve had several conversations with people who I thought would be sources before. Maybe like the third time we chat, they’re like, ‘You know, I really don’t wanna do this, nothing’s changed this whole time and I’m tired.’ And you have to be like, ‘Okay, I get it.’

Leanna First-Arai: Yeah.

Victoria Bouloubasis: And I think that’s something too that journalists need to consider. Sometimes I see calls on Twitter, like, ‘Hey, I’m looking for a farm worker to talk to in this state.’ And I’m like, for me, it doesn’t work that way. And maybe it works for some and there are vocal people who have, like, very strong union representation. But you know, here I, I go through channels that, like, can already vet me to other people and trust me.

Leanna First-Arai: Mm-hmm.


Victoria Bouloubasis: And then that still takes time to build trust with new people and the constant conversation during the reporting of, like, making sure everyone understands any potential risks despite anonymity or whatever.

Leanna First-Arai: Victoria, what would you say drives you to tell the stories that you do? And, of course, to do your very best work to get them right?


Victoria Bouloubasis: For me, when I’m going about covering these issues, my main focus is to obviously hold systems accountable. You know, public services not doing their job, call them out. But then for those who are affected by those policies or non-existent policies, what they’re doing themselves to better their own lives, um, to, you know, take matters into their own hands.


Leanna First-Arai: Paola and Victoria, are there things that you haven’t covered yet, specifically environmental issues that you think your audience would be served by, um, by receiving more information about?

Paola Jaramillo: Este problema que tenemos en condado Sampson con las plantas procesadoras de cerdo y la producción del gas.

ENGLISH TRANSLATION: This problem that we have in Sampson County with the pork processing plants and the production of biogas …

Leanna First-Arai: Right. And for listeners, we’re talking about biogas, which we dug into a bit with Cameron Oglesby in our last episode. To deal with really massive amounts of untreated hog waste, the hog industry is now installing expensive systems to extract methane from waste ponds where they collect it and then pipe it out for, for electricity generation ultimately. Presumably that will reduce odors – that’s what company spokespeople say – but it will also involve a lot of new pipeline infrastructure. And critics worry that that will let the hog industry off the hook when it comes to dealing with waste ponds that are harming their neighbors.

Paola Jaramillo: Si, están haciendo estas cuestiones justo donde viven los latinos, pero los latinos ni idea qué es eso lo que pasa allí. Porque están tan enfocados en cómo sobrevivo hoy, que es difícil pensar en otras cosas pero que resulta que si te van a tocar y te están tocando, pero que tú no sabes. Es un tema que afecta directamente a las comunidades minoritarias, Latinas, pobres que viven en las zonas rurales de Carolina del Norte que finalmente lo va terminar afectando a todos.

ENGLISH TRANSLATION: They’re doing this stuff right where Latinos live, but Latinos have no idea what’s happening. They’re so focused on ‘How do I survive today,’ it’s really hard to think about things that don’t feel like they’re impacting you at the moment. But it turns out that they’re going to impact you and they are impacting you, you just don’t know it. It’s an issue that directly affects minority communities – Latinos, poor folks who live in rural areas of North Carolina – that will eventually impact us all.

Leanna First-Arai: Mm-hmm. And how about you, Victoria? Are there any other environmental topics you’d like to dig more into for the Enlace Latino audience?

Victoria Bouloubasis: I think heat would be an issue, especially in the fields.


Victoria Bouloubasis: I think a lot about the way I, you know, as essentially a gringa to these folks speaking Spanish, how I talk about climate change, because I also know that in other countries in Latin America, those climate defenders are targeted, are murdered. And so, they often don’t wanna rock the boat because, at the end of the day, they need their jobs. It’s just, like, a very tricky situation how we cover it. And I think to explain to workers, like, how it’s affecting them and what they can or can’t do about it, okay, it’s an issue and we need to harp on it, but, like, if things don’t change year after year, the folks working in that heat are still suffering and they’re gonna have challenging health issues that come with it.

Leanna First-Arai: Yeah, absolutely.  Victoria, I know this can be a tough question to answer as a journalist, um, and honestly, it’s one that I grapple with a fair amount myself. But where do you see the line between reporting and advocacy or activism?

Victoria Bouloubasis: Let me just say this, I think when no one’s talking about something, you have to put it out there.

Leanna First-Arai: Mm-hmm.

Victoria Bouloubasis: I could do journalism and just regurgitate the same stories. Obviously there’s always stuff to be investigated, there’s always stuff to FOIA and I still do that, but at the end of the day when there’s a pressing issue, and public officials who are supposed to give you information are not, and you’re repeatedly being ignored or put off, and when you see on the ground what’s happening, the story is revealed to you. Um, we can talk until we’re blue in the face about, like, whether objectivity is real, right? I personally think we all have implicit biases and a perspective at the very least that filters anything we do. And as journalists, fair and objective are not the same thing. And I don’t think objectivity can naturally exist. It can be viewed as advocacy, but at the end of the day, I see it as my job as a public service to reveal what is being purposely ignored. It’s not even hidden. It’s right there. you just have to listen and pay attention to communities and then connect the dots to the policies that are affecting what’s going on.

Leanna First-Arai: That is a fantastic answer.

Victoria Bouloubasis: Thank you so much.


Leanna First-Arai: It’s been super lovely to chat with you both.

Paola Jaramillo: Gracias a las dos por abrir este espacio así.

Leanna First-Arai: Un plaisir, Paola. Muchisima gracias.


Host: That was Enlace Latino co-founder Paola Jaramillo, and freelance journalist Victoria Bouloubasis. For links to their work, visit our website at Broken Ground podcast dot org. Next time on Broken Ground …

Cornell Watson: I am keenly aware that my camera is a weapon that can be used for good.

Host: Photojournalist Cornell Watson.

Cornell Watson: It can move people to act, rally people to join a cause.

Host: That’s next time on Broken Ground.


Host: Broken Ground is a podcast by the Southern Environmental Law Center, one of the nation’s most powerful defenders of the environment rooted in the South. Broken Ground is produced by Emily Richardson-Lorente, Jennie Daley, Pria Mahadevan, Paige Polk, and me, Leanna First-Arai, with the invaluable assistance of Ko Bragg. Visit us at Broken Ground Podcast dot org to find some other great podcast related content.