A Great Barrington mother and daughter are making waves throughout the Berkshires — radio waves, that is.
On Fridays, from 4 to 6 p.m., and Sundays, from 10 to 11:30 a.m., Berkshirites can hear the stylings of Martha Escobar and her daughter, Deisy Escobar, on 89.7 WTBR-FM or 97.7 WBCR-FM. The Spanish-language radio program, Mundo Latino: Recordando Tus Raíces has been broadcasting for the last 14 years.
“Our mission is to keep the immigration community informed about all the services that Berkshire County has to offer,” said Martha Escobar.
On the show, the pair provides information to immigrants and those new to the country about English classes and legal advice while keeping their roots alive by sprinkling in Latin music, including merengue, salsa and bachata. Martha and Deisy also interview experts in their fields regarding a number of topics that are pertinent to their listeners.
In the past, the duo has interviewed doctors from Fairview Hospital regarding the COVID-19 pandemic and vaccinations; a spokesperson from the Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center on its Spanish-language movies and Latin events; an ovarian cancer survivor and several others from the Elizabeth Freeman Center and Berkshire Immigration Center. The Escobars also maintain an ongoing series on immigrants who are making a difference.
“[In the series] People tell their stories of how they came to this country; how they started out and what they do now. They’re inspirational stories of how people in our community have made their dreams come true,” said Martha Escobar.
Martha, a native of Bogota, Colombia, first came to the U.S. by way of Sheffield 21 years ago in search of better job opportunities and a chance to continue her academic studies. When she left Colombia, she said the economic situation was very difficult and she wanted to be able to help her mother financially. When she first arrived in the U.S., her first job was as a dishwasher.
These days, she’s currently working toward a psychology degree at Berkshire Community College and aims to become a bilingual therapist in the community while working at the Elizabeth Freeman Center as an advocate and bilingual counselor.
Her first time on the air came after a friend invited her on her program in 2007. The following year, Mundo Latino was launched. For six years, the program was broadcast only in Spanish. But when an 8-year-old Deisy asked her mother if she could read a poem on air, Martha agreed and Deisy, now 16 and a junior at Mount Everett High School, hasn’t left since.
Since Martha slid the microphone over, to share with her daughter, the program has shifted to a bilingual format.
“I grew up watching my mom do this. The way she expressed herself in Spanish and how passionate she was about it, it really inspired me. I wanted to be just like her,” said Deisy. “I love working together and growing together. We share a lot of the same passions, so it comes pretty naturally. I grew up with both cultures: Hispanic and American and it’s wonderful to be able to share that with the community. To be able to share this culture, bilingually, it’s a huge privilege. I have the best of both worlds, I like to say.”
Deisy highlighted volunteering, folkloric Latin dance and helping the community among the passions she shares with her mother.
Outside of Mundo Latino and her classes at Mount Everett, Deisy serves as a Southern Berkshire Health Coalition intern at Railroad Street Youth Project. She’s also a member of the Social Justice Club and a board member for Latinas 413. The 16-year-old also tutors at the Literacy Network of South Berkshire and has two students, one from Colombia and one from El Salvador.
“I’m very proud of her,” said Martha of her daughter. “I love to see how dedicated she is in helping others. These kids are going through what I did when I first got here [to this country], and I tell her to help them however you can.”
A recent Mundo Latino program featured a guest that discussed job preparation. For those coming from another country like Colombia, Martha said there are some differences in how employers seek and interview potential applicants. Their program touched on the importance of being on time, asking questions, wearing proper attire, looking into an interviewer’s eyes and knowing about the company.
“A lot of our listeners are new here and starting from zero. We try to give them as many resources as we can, because the situation is likely very different here than what they’re used to,” said Deisy. “Take Colombia — because that’s what we were comparing it to — for example: if they don’t contact you in a week or less in Colombia, it means you didn’t get the job. Here, you can and are encouraged to call. It could take much longer than a week to hear back from an employer.”
With the show, the Escobars continue to help make connections with culture. In reflecting on her own journey to the U.S. and becoming a citizen, Martha said it’s important that she and her daughter let others in the Latin community know that they aren’t alone.
“We have a space where we can have our voice. We don’t want them to feel isolated or depressed. It is very hard to start a new life because of the language barrier or not having family around, but it is possible to make our dreams come true,” she said. “It isn’t magic. It requires a lot of hard work, but we make sure to let people know that there are leaders and resources available to help.”
For those that may have missed the live programming of Mundo Latino, their website https://linktr.ee/mundolatino has links to past episodes, podcasts and even simulcast television shows.
“I hope that those that tune in will feel the joy that we have for our music and the love that we put into the show,” said Deisy. “You don’t have to be Latin or even speak Spanish to enjoy. All are welcomed.”