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The Journey that became a Story

As part of our third anniversary we return to our roots—our first episode of our pilot season, Moving, originally released in 2012. These are five stories about migration, journeys, and everything you learn along the way. One of these is Stowaways, produced by Nancy López, who we caught up with to talk about Mayer’s journey in retrospective.

To listen to the Mayer’s story click here.

Radio Ambulante: Reviewing Stowaways three years later, what do you remember? What can you highlight of that story?

Nancy López: “What I stands out to me is Mayer as a character. He is an ideal person to interview, not only for his stories and everything he has lived, but him as a person. As a producer when one is looking for a story, you could find a phenomenal story, but if the person telling it can’t bring it to life… (it won’t have the same effect). It has a lot to do with the character, too, and I think in that sense in Stowaways we had not only the story, but we had a character that could put us in that experience. He was a good talker, a good storyteller. Mayer is very charismatic. He’s lived so many things other things in his life.

For me it is an honor be able to meet someone who has lived through something so hard and that stills affects him. When I was telling the story, especially in relation to Mario and what happened to Mario, yes, he got a little emotional, because it was a very hard experience that he had with a friend who he had known since childhood. So more than anything, it makes me think of all of the sacrifices that many people go through to come to this country because, ultimately, they made the journey to reach the United States from Peru. “

RA: How did you meet Mayer? How did the story emerge?

NL: “Daniel (Alarcón) met him in a boxing training center, and Mayer is a very charismatic man. He came across him there because Mayer, being seventy-something years old, still boxes. Daniel met him and they began talking, and he realized that this man had many stories. I think he interviewed him for two hours. It was more of a profile of his whole life.

I don’t know how many things he told Daniel. Later Daniel shared the audio with me and asked if I thought there was a story there for RA. Of all of them, the one that stood out most for me was this journey that he took with his friend to the United States on a ship. Daniel gave me the assignment to meet Mayer and interview him again, but to focus on that story. So, I went to Los Angeles, to his quinceañera dress shop in Huntington Park.

I met him there and I was ready to interview him when he said: “No, no, no, first let’s go eat so I can tell you more about my life.” He could have been there all day chatting about his life. So we went to dinner at a Peruvian restaurant that was close by. We ate Peruvian food: rice, and I think ceviche. I also wanted to let him know that I was interested in his story. We talked. I didn’t have my recorder with me. He was telling me more about other things in his life, like when he was a soldier and was mistreated and had to escape but somehow survived. As a child he was in Peru in the military, as a soldier. He is a man who has had a life… He’s a cat with nine lives. He had so many stories but we decided to focus on this hard journey from Peru to New York. “

RA: How did Mayer react when you told him you wanted to do a story about his journey to the United States?

NL: “He is very charismatic but he’s a bit older, and well, older, humble people feel proud when someone wants to interview them extensively on a component or an experience of their lives. He was very willing to tell me what I wanted, and yes, he was very kind with his time and willing to tell me his experience in detail.”

RA: In addition to the audio story, did you do something else with Stowaways?

NL: “We produced Stowaways for RA and it only exists in that format. We presented it again as part of a live show. It was a collaboration between RA and the library in downtown Los Angeles. Basically we presented it in the same way, and I was narrating live what I had said in the story we produced. We just played the beats while I narrated the story live.

That was the last time I saw Mayer. I presented Mayer’s story. He was there with his children. They were all very proud. His family was very excited. Daniel introduced him and brought him to the stage. It was brief but I could see that Mayer was very proud to see his story presented in such way. It was the last time I saw him and that was two or three years ago.”

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