The Extraterrestrials – Translation
[Daniel Alarcón, host]: Hello, Ambulantes, happy new year!
If you follow this podcast, you’ve probably heard of Lupa, our new Spanish learning app. With Lupa, intermediate-level students have just the right technology assistance to train their ears. This app helps you listen, so you can learn Spanish as it’s actually spoken in Latin America.
Well, I’m mentioning Lupa because today’s episode — in addition to being really good — is special. It’s already available in the Lupa app. If you have any friends or family who could understand this story and study it at the same time, Lupa is for them. More info at lupa.app. OK, now the episode:
A warning: in today’s episode you’ll hear some words that aren’t suitable for children. Discretion is advised.
[Voice]: Radio Quito, the voice of the capital.
[Singers]: Van cantando por la sierra… Silencio que está dormida…
[Daniel]: Welcome to Radio Ambulante from NPR. I’m Daniel Alarcón.
[Presenter]: We interrupt tonight’s musical programming to deliver an emergency news cable.
[Daniel]: This audio is a recreation of an audio drama that aired live on February 12th, 1949 in Quito, Ecuador. That’s why sometimes you’ll hear something like this:
[Voice]: Radio Quito, the voice of the capital.
[Daniel]: They added it to the recreation I was telling you about. But let’s continue.
[Presenter]: According to a report from our correspondents, a huge ball of smoke and fire has descended on the city of Latacunga.
[Daniel]: Latacunga is a few hours away from Quito. And the radio drama we’re hearing is “The War of the Worlds” an adaptation of the book by H. G. Wells. It was broadcast by journalist Leonardo Páez at the radio station where he worked as artistic director: Radio Quito.
[Presenter]: Baffled citizens watched with amazement as the clouds dissipated, revealing large discs with bright lights. Their attitude is hostile. A powerful ray emitting from these strange crafts is destroying the city.
[Lisette Arévalo]: Later on, you’ll understand why we’re listing to a recreation and the original, but it sounded a lot like what you just heard.
[Daniel]: This is Lisette Arévalo, our producer.
[Lisette]: Maybe some of you already know that an adaptation of this same play was broadcast in New York.
[Daniel]: But for those of you who don’t: the actor Orson Welles broadcast his adaptation of this novel on the CBS radio station on October 30th, 1938, the night before Halloween.
It was so well done, that many people thought it was real. They believed that Martians were invading their city, and they started to panic: it’s said that people ran out of their houses, fled to churches, went into shock, and ran through the streets.
[Lisette]: Eleven years later, Leonardo Páez decided to do the same thing in Ecuador. Páez died in 1991, but he wrote a book called “Los que siembran el viento” [“Those who sow the wind”] in which he describes what happened the night this radio drama aired. Today we’re going to hear some of what he wrote.
[Daniel]: And this is what today’s story is about: supposed Martians invading a small city in the middle of the world, and the unexpected results of that radio broadcast.
Lissette continues the story.
[Lisette]: Before getting into the story, it’s important to understand what Quito was like in 1949.
[José Laso]: A city…
[Mercedes Gross]: Small.
[María Luisa Cerón]: Oh, very peaceful.
[Aurora Pazmiño]: The streets were a little narrower.
[Mercedes]: Totally colonial. Cobblestoned.
[Aurora]: Many neighborhoods didn’t have running water or power.
[José Antonio Gross]: We did everything on foot.
[José Lasso]: And everyone communicated face to face, in personal encounters in downtown Quito.
[Norma Godoy]: Most people were good.
[María Luisa]: You could leave the house at any hour in the early morning or night.
[Fabián Melo]: And we were happy. We had good lives.
[Lisette]: And in that period, which was so peaceful, with no internet, no cellphones, no TV…
[Mercedes]: The gathering place for everyone everywhere was around the radio. That was all there was.
[Lisette]: This is my great aunt Mercedes Gross, who’s 78 years old, and this is Fabián Melo, who’s the same age.
[Fabián]: The radio was a fixture, a piece of furniture that we had there, but we put a little piece of flannel on it so it wouldn’t get dusty (laughs).
[Lisette]: Because, of course, it was one of the most valuable items a person could have in their home. You had to take care of it. But not everyone in Quito had a radio, not at all. Aurora Pazmiño is 81 years old, and she told me that…
[Aurora]: There weren’t a lot of radios, and there wasn’t a lot of electricity, so people usually put speakers or the radio outside. So people could gather around and listen to the pro… the programs.
[Lisette]: News programs, live music, religious ceremonies, interviews with politicians. There were many ways to listen to the radio, but it was almost always in groups: with neighbors, friends, family. Especially at night when the radio dramas were on.
[Padre Almeida]: Where, where is the house? We haven’t gone very far from the convent.
[Man]: We’re here. We’re here. Do you see that house next to the frog fountain?
[Padre Almeida]: Yes, yes. And… and I hear some voices too.
[Lisette]: Radio dramas like this one, which despite being from 1968 seem a lot like the ones you would hear in the late ’40s. The one we just heard tells the Quito legend of Padre Almeida. And just so you know what’s going on: it’s about a priest who lived in a convent toward the end of the 18th century and absconded every night to drink aguardiente and visit brothels.
To create these radio dramas, the radio stations teams dedicated to their production: actors, sound effects artists, directors, writers. Guillermo Villalba is 98 years old and worked as a radio announcer at Quito’s Radio Comercial.
[Guillermo Villalba]: Every station had its team of technicians, sound designers. And there we had devices to imitate the sound of a horse coming, the sound of rain with paper, with doors, creating the stories.
[Lisette]: And people loved to listen to them. In fact, it was the most popular form of entertainment. People could imagine thousands of stories in their minds, painting the scenes that the hosts narrated however they wanted.
At that time, one of the radio stations with the highest listenership in Quito was one we already mentioned: Radio Quito, founded by the owner of the newspaper El Comercio, one of the largest in the country. It was considered one of the most trustworthy stations when it came to getting the news. Aurora Pazmiño, a faithful listener, remembers that broadcast very fondly.
[Aurora]: It had all the best programs, especially a program that… where the best musicians sang. It was called Cantares del Alma. At that time, Benítez and Valencia, who were still young, would play.
(SOUNDBITE OF “PARA MÍ TUS RECUERDOS” BY BENÍTEZ AND VALENCIA)
[Benítez and Valencia]: Para mí tus recuerdos.
[Lisette]: The duo Benítez and Valencia was one of the most famous pasillo groups in Ecuador.
(SOUNDBITE OF “PARA MÍ TUS RECUERDOS” BY BENÍTEZ AND VALENCIA)
[Benítez and Valencia]: El fantasma quien dijo del nombre mi adorada.
[Lisette]: When Quiteños knew they were going to play on the radio, they wouldn’t miss it for a thing. And that’s how it was the day that “The War of the Worlds” aired, February 12th, 1949, minutes after 9 p.m. The station had already announced that they were going to play, so a lot of people tuned in to the broadcast.
(SOUNDBITE OF “PARA MÍ TUS RECUERDOS” BY BENÍTEZ AND VALENCIA)
[Lisette]: It was a Saturday night. My grandfather José Antonio Gross was 17 years old, and he was with his friends, standing in the street outside of a restaurant, and the owner of the establishment took her radio out to listen to music with the people in the neighborhood.
[José Antonio Gross]: We were listening to Benítez and Valencia, the best duo there’s ever been in Ecuador, and the presenter said:
[Presenter]: We interrupt tonight’s musical programming to deliver an emergency news cable. According to an update from our reporters…
[José Antonio Gross]: Then it stopped. It went silent, and then the host started talking again.
[Actor]: This is unbelievable. People are running through the streets! You can’t escape! Listeners, the city of Latacunga has been destroyed by a swarm of alien and they’re headed for Quito! I repeat: they’re headed for Quito!
[José Antonio Gross]: And then, it stopped again, he says:
[Presenter]: This just in, we have a report from the Mariscal Sucre airbase. The aliens are now in Cotocollao.
[Actor]: The airbase in Mariscal Sucre has been taken by the enemy and has been destroyed! They’re exterminating everyone!
[José Antonio Gross]: Then we did get scared.
[Lisette]: Everyone believed it: Martians had invaded Ecuador, and in a matter of minutes they would arrive in Quito. And the descriptions of this supposed invasion were so believable and impactful that many people still remember it.
[Aurora]: They were saying that spaceships that were… like flying saucers had descended.
[Lisette]: This is Aurora again. She was 11 years old.
[Aurora]: And men who were small but very strong, they said, had come down. And they were very agile, and wherever they went they, uh, burned and destroyed everyone in their path.
[Lisette]: Aurora heard this and went into shock. She didn’t know what to do. Then her parents went into her room and told her and her siblings:
[Aurora]: “Get up, children, and start pra… praying, ask God for help.”
[Lisette]: They weren’t the only ones who started praying. This is Fabian Melo, who was 8 at the time.
[Fabián]: We all got very nervous, and then, my mom and my grandma came out to pray, and gather us together, and hold us to protect us from who knows what was going to happen.
[Lisette]: And the panic was beginning to be felt throughout the city.
[Mercedes]: I clearly remember them saying: “They’re coming. It’s a gigantic fleet.”
[Lisette]: This is Mercedes Gross again, my great aunt. She was eight years old when this happened.
[Mercedes]: “What are they going to do to us? A terrible fleet of Martians.” And: “Hide. Protect yourselves. Don’t come out. Watch out, the children in the street.”
[Lisette]: My great aunt didn’t really understand what was happening. She was just a little girl, and it was all very confusing. She just remembers seeing her dad upset, telling them not to leave the house.
For many, this was the end of the world. Like for José Laso’s mom. He was 10 years old and was listening to the radio drama with his family in his grandparent’s living room.
[José Laso]: And then, my mom was frantic. Looking for a place where we could protect ourselves. Then, there was a… supposedly there was a basement in that house, and she wanted us to go down there.
[Lisette]: The phones at Radio Quito were ringing off the hook because people were calling to ask if it was really happening. But, despite all this, the hosts didn’t stop the broadcast. They said that all of the information they were sharing came from trustworthy international agencies and the newspaper El Comercio. In fact, even the real head of information for the newspaper went on air to speak, and delivered a news bulletin about the supposed Martian invasion.
And to make it seem more real, they hired actors to play the roles of Ecuadorian authorities.
[Actor]: Citizens, as minister of defense, I ask the citizens of Quito to remain calm. We’re organizing the defense and evacuation of the city.
[Presenter]: At the moment we have in our studio the mayor of Quito.
[Actor]: People of Quito, allow us to defend our city. Our women and children should leave for the high elevation areas in order to leave the men free for action and combat.
[Lisette]: Then the host asked them to stay tuned because he said that they had managed to get in touch with one of their reporters in Cotocollao, in the north of Quito.
The person who came on to speak was Leonardo Páez, a journalist and the artistic director of the radio station. The same person who wrote the book that describes all this. There he describes the scene he narrated when he went on air.
He said that he was witnessing an amazing spectacle: Martians were moving from left to right as if it was a classical dance. That sometimes the outlines of the ship’s frames glowed and you could see a line of green light, like a flare.
Páez also said that he was looking at a large metallic structure, like a lamppost, with a long arm and gigantic hand coming out of it. And out of that hand, there came a transparent disc that spun and spot out a yellow liquid. He also narrated what it looked like when that liquid landed on a house. The house disappeared.
All of a sudden, the lens of the transparent disc turned to him, and Páez said something like this:
[Actor]: Martians… Martians are attacking Cotocallao. The Army’s tanks have been destroyed. Nothing will stop them. They’re advancing on Quito. They’re coming! Run! Run!
[Lisette]: Then the host announced that Leonardo Páez had been disintegrated by Martians. The few Quiteños who had doubted that the broadcast was real started to get scared.
The scene described by some of the people who experienced that moment is one of sheer horror: they say that there were people leaving their houses, running frantically through the streets carrying…
[María Luisa]: Mattresses, luggage, baskets, and anything they could carry. Everyone was crying frantically.
[José Laso]: A lot of people were knocking on the doors of the church, out of terror, trying to confess their sins.
[José Antonio]: And men were coming down who said they were liberals, and they asked for forgiveness for the sins they had committed in their lives and they knelt down and said: “My God, Dear Lord, forgive me for what I’ve done.”
[Aurora]: And you could hear ambulances, yes, you heard ambulances because people were afraid… there were people who did have fits.
[Lisette]: In his book, Páez says that many pregnant women went to hospitals because some of them went into labor early and others had already needed to. There were numerous car accidents in the streets, and there were people who wanted to jump out of the window so they would die before the Martians came. Couples who had planned on getting married months later decided to go to the church to do it that night, before they died. Or some people confessed their infidelity. Some people started burning money or giving it away to anyone who passed by. And there were other people took out bottles of whiskey so they could start drinking and share with whoever wanted some. Everyone was living those minutes as if they were their last.
In fact, they say that Ecuadorian combat forces were mobilizing to confront the supposed Martians. Imagine it, a bunch of armed soldiers driving out to the suburbs of Quito to stand off against space aliens.
The people who were inside the radio station had no idea that this was happening on the streets of the city. Guillermo Villalba, who worked at Radio Comercial, was 27 years old at the time, and he told me that they hired him to do this.
[Guillermo]: To act out fake exchanges with other stations. To broadcast and report the Martians’ arrival. They said: “Hello, Gran Colombia, let’s exchange.”
[Lisette]: Gran Colombia, another radio station in Ecuador. This exchange between the two stations was another one of Páez’s strategies to make the invasion seem more real. Because, of course, now it wasn’t just Radio Quito narrating all this, but also different media outlets.
But Guillermo and the people in the studio didn’t even imagine that Quiteños could believe the broadcast was real and would be waiting hopelessly for the end of the world. To them, it was clear that it was a radio drama: not just because it was a well-known novel, but also because people knew about what had happened in New York 11 years earlier. And not just because of the obviously fake sound effects, but also because of another absurd detail: during the broadcast of the supposed Martian invasion, there was a commercial for a soda called Orangine. In the book, Páez says that there were announcements like this one.
[Voice]: The informative bulletins you’re hearing, ladies and gentlemen, are brought to you by Orangine, the orange beverage that can’t be beat.
[Lisette]: But despite all this, to the people listening to the broadcast, it was all too real. This is how my great aunt Mercedes remembers it.
[Mercedes]: The narration was so perfect that… that no one doubted it because they even described the way in which… the ships were coming. So, who would doubt that?
[Lisette]: Who would doubt it.
[José Laso]: In a city that small, people were very naive, you know?
[Lisette]: This is José Laso again, the man whose mom wanted to hide him in a basement when she heard about the Martian invasion. He’s an academic and researcher, and he wrote the prologue to Páez’s book.
[José Laso]: Our frame of reference was Quito. There was no globalization. So of course, we were extremely parochial, you know?
[Lisette]: After about 15 minutes of the broadcast, the people inside the radio station learned what was happening in the streets of Quito, about the desperation and panic. So, the hosts of Radio Quito said something like this.
[Presenter]: We would like to announce to the public that there is no Martian invasion. What you’re hearing is a completely fictional radio drama by Radio Quito. Remain calm. This is only a radio drama.
[Daniel]: But far from calming the people of Quito, this announcement caused even more unrest. And the consequences were as unexpected as they were violent.
We’ll be back after the break.
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[Daniel]: We’re back with Radio Ambulante. I’m Daniel Alarcón. Before the break, we were in Ecuador in 1949. The station Radio Quito was transmitting a recreation of “The War of the Worlds,” and people were convinced that Martians were invading the city. When the hosts found out about the mounting chaos and announced that it was a radio drama, there were several reactions. One of the people who remembers this is Aurora Pazmiño.
[Aurora]: Then, the people who heard that became, you could say, furious. They were very angry.
[Daniel]: They called the radio station to insult them, and they said things like: “Here comes the second part of the invasion, you bastards,” “You don’t know what you’ve got coming, you sons of bitches,” among other things. But that would be just the start of the tragic consequences of the broadcast of “The War of the Worlds” in Quito.
Lissette continues the story.
[Lisette]: To understand the events that would take place after the announcement that the invasion wasn’t real, you have to understand a bit of the social and political context of the country in 1949. Ecuador had come out of a war with Peru seven years earlier, World War II had recently ended, and only four years earlier the atomic bomb had been dropped. So, when they heard that Martian invaders were coming to kill them, it was as if all those wars and attacks had finally made it to Quito. Or as José Laso puts it:
[José Laso]: It was the war of the worlds, right? Of the small worlds that were Latacunga, Ambato, Riobamba, because that was the world to Ecuador at the time, you know?
[Lisette]: And that was when the people of Quito decided to rise up against the radio station that made them believe the end of the world had come. José was at his parents’ house in downtown Quito, and after hearing this clarification, he remembers seeing out the windows…
[José Laso]: The people going up. The masses rose up with sticks, outraged.
[Lisette]: And it wasn’t just José’s neighbors who were going out to protest outside the radio station. My grandpa, who was still outside of the restaurant where he was with his friends, started to see that…
[José Antonio]: People were taking to the streets, and the group was getting bigger and bigger as they walked down 10 de Agosto and then Guayaquil until they made it to Plaza de Independencia.
[Lisette]: The most important plaza in the historic city downtown, a meeting place in front of the Palacio de Gobierno, a few blocks away from where Radio Quito was at the time. And the people there didn’t just have sticks and stones.
[Aurora]: At that time, since we didn’t have electricity, we were used to having to go out in the early morning or at night with kerosene torches.
[Lisette]: This is Aurora Pazmiño again.
[Aurora]: So, people took those torches and marched to Radio Quito.
[Lisette]: Yes, people went carrying torches to the building the radio station operated out of, which was the same place where the newspaper El Comercio was headquartered. They were ready for anything. The crowd encircled the building, and amid shouts and insults, they threw stones and bricks at the windows.
But that wasn’t enough. They started shouting “Fire!” and they entered the first floor and destroyed the machines and set fire to everything. The mob didn’t just want to destroy their facilities; they wanted to burn the building and everyone inside it. More and more people joined in the destruction and brought cans of gasoline to fuel the flames.
The people inside the radio station knew that the people outside were very upset, but they never imagined they would burn down the building. And despite the fact they could hear people shouting “fire” and could see through the window that people were carrying cans of gasoline, they only realized that they wanted to burn down the building when they saw the billow of smoke.
Guillermo Villalba, the host of Radio Comercial who was invited to participate in the broadcast, remembers that at one point, he saw how the smoke was rising from the base of the building up to the second floor, where Radio Quito was.
[Guillermo]: We felt anguish, despair, the moment we started smelling smoke. And then everyone everywhere was trying to get out.
[Lisette]: At that moment, the host of Radio Quito went back to the microphone and pleaded for help from the government, the police, firefighters, anyone who was listening. José Laso, who was still at home listening to the broadcast, remembers it well.
[José Laso]: They were desperately asking for help and rescue. And people believed that it was all part of the show, part of the game, part of the play and performance of “The War of the Worlds,” right? And… and so it was the terrible ambiguity between fact and fiction.
[Lisette]: The people who weren’t trying to burn down El Comercio saw the flames and the smoke and left the building.
[José Laso]: Well, the people were asking, what’s going on in Quito? People didn’t know if a newspaper was being burned to the ground or if Martians really were invading, you know? Because it was in the city center of this tiny Quito, you know?
[Lisette]: Finally, the firemen responded to the fire and arrived outside of the newspaper to try to put out the fire, but Fabián Melo was told that…
[Fabián]: The people didn’t let them spray a single drop of water on the… the building. “If you spray one drop of water, we’ll kill you.”
[Lisette]: And with that threat, the firefighters withdrew. People would not allow them to help the people inside the building under any circumstances. And they didn’t even care about the risk of the fire spreading to nearby houses.
In the end, the protestors outside of El Comercio announced that they would let the artists, hosts, journalists, and workers leave the station, but only out of one door. They said their lives would be respected and that they only wanted them to hand over Leonardo Páez.
According to what Páez says in his book, they wanted him because they saw him as —and I quote— the “the diabolical mind who, despite being from Quito, has disgracefully betrayed Quito, flipping it on its back.”
The workers at the radio station and the newspaper started coming out one by one. But not all of them made it because the flames began to rise and they blocked off the way to the door. One of them was Guillermo Villalba.
[Guillermo]: Everything from the top floor down was in flames. And how were we supposed to get out? We had to throw ourselves onto a building next to the top floor terrace of the building the radio station was in.
[Lisette]: Next to the El Comercio building, there was a convent.
[Guillermo]: I went out and threw myself onto a hot sheet metal that had been there, and I burned my hands and a lot of my body.
[Lisette]: Guillermo was left unconscious due to the smoke he inhaled. Later someone took him away from there —still unconscious— and brought him to a hospital.
Meanwhile, the building was still burning, the flames getting higher and higher. Aurora Pazmiño remembers them. She lived on a street that rose above el Panecillo, a hill that had a view of the whole city.
[Aurora]: From above I could see the whole fire after I heard it, and there were flames, and the smoke was rising very high. Imagine, I could see the whole city center there, I could see it.
[Lisette]: Fabián Melo remembers how he felt when he saw the fire. He lived three kilometers away from the radio station.
[Fabián]: Geeze, it was terrible. Imagine an eight-year-old kid who starts seeing flashes and sparks rising into their air. What can I say? At that time, I thought they were going 10, 12 meters up into the air.
[Lisette]: It was already around 11 p.m., two hours after the broadcast started. By this point, the police had arrived and dispersed the protestors by firing tear gas on them. The Ministry of Defense sent ground troops and cavalry to support the police. Once they had encircled the area, firefighters were able to approach the building and start putting out the fire. It was 11:30 p.m.
Meanwhile, inside the building, Leonardo Páez managed to get out by jumping out the window onto the roof of the convent. He continued his escape, walking atop the roofs of adjoining houses, trying to get as far away as possible from the mob that wanted to burn him. Until he made it to a building where there was a family on a terrace. He gestured at them asking for help, and right away they did. They let him come into their home and gave him a room.
Páez asked them to contact his family and they told him they would, but they warned him that the police were looking all over for him. By this point, it was past midnight.
The firefighters managed to put out the fire completely, and the protestors went home. Little by little, calm was being restored, and the city barely slept that night.
The following morning, Quiteños went to see what happened at the site. The building that Radio Quito and El Comercio operated out of was completely destroyed. All that was left was the facade. There was ash everywhere. Everything inside was burned, including the adapted script of “The War of the Worlds” by Eduardo Alcaraz and the original recording of the broadcast. That’s why what we heard was just a recreation.
José Laso’s mom took him to see the wreckage.
[José Laso]: It had a big impact on me because on the second floor of El Comercio, there were newspaper printers and there were low windows that let you see into the burnt interior. And seeing the floor of.. of El Comercio, which looked like a mirror, had a big impact on me. Because the lead from all the printing plates had melted. And seeing the mangled typewriters had a big impact on me, you know? Because of the fire.
[Lisette]: Eight people died in the fire. Among them were two musicians who were in studio during the broadcast: the violinist Perfecto Alvarado and the pianist Raúl Molestina. But there were also two people who were with Páez while he was working: his girlfriend Clemencia and one of her nephews.
And well, outside of the radio station as well, the panic took its toll: it’s said that some people killed themselves out of desperation because of the supposed Martian invasion. They say that in total around 20 people may have died.
In the days following the fire, several protestors and radio station staff were arrested by the police. But they didn’t stop looking all over for Páez. Páez had escaped the city center and was hiding at the house of a family he knew, in the Quito suburbs. He was there for four months. One day, his lawyer recommended that he appear before a judge directly at the Palace of Justice, and he told him his defense was already ready. Páez agreed.
The judge accused him of arson and provoking a “collective reaction” that caused the destruction of El Comercio. But Páez and his lawyer showed that the directors of Radio Quito were aware of what they were going to do and signed a contract with the scriptwriter, Eduardo Alcaraz. Páez argued that he was just following orders from his superiors. He was acquitted on all charges and went free.
Páez got out of going to prison, but there was something that was keeping him from living in peace: whenever he walked down the streets of Quito, he got extreme and contradictory reactions from people. On the one hand, people invited him to have a drink and tell him how they experienced the broadcast of “The War of the Worlds”. Others went up to him and congratulated him on his great work on the radio drama. Some told him that they’d laughed a lot. Others were grateful to the Martians for separating them from their unfaithful partners. And others who participated in the fire couldn’t forgive themselves.
But those somewhat comical comments didn’t save him from losing his credibility and reputation as a journalist. Many people accused him of only publishing fake news. And when newspapers and radio stations gave him work, they told him to publish it under a pseudonym or with no byline. They didn’t pay him much and he could barely make ends meet. They only let him broadcast radio dramas under his own name at one radio station, and thanks to that space, he won a prize for his work as a playwright. With the money he won, he decided to emigrate to Venezuela and never to return.
Radio Quito was closed for two years. It opened up again in 1951. And for a long time in Ecuador, people from other cities called Quiteños “Martians”, as a joke about how gullible they were.
But really it’s no laughing matter. For many, it’s a terrible event that will mark their lives forever, like Guillermo Villalba.
[Guillermo]: Everyone did what they could to save themselves in that moment of anguish that I don’t want to remember. This is a tragic event, completely.
[Lisette]: I understand why he doesn’t want to remember all this: he was about to die.
In the days following the broadcast, Guillermo recovered from his injuries, but the burns on his hands left him without fingerprints. And you can still see the consequences of that day in him. Doctors told him recently that he had lung damage from all the smoke he inhaled that day.
When I was young I used to walk down the streets of Quito’s historic downtown with my grandpa, he would always tell me stories about the city: he showed me where he lived with my great grandparents, where he went to school, where my grandma studied.
And many times we arrived at the spot where Radio Quito operated in his youth —the reconstructed building that clashes with its modern, even alien facade, placed in the middle of a colonial street. We would stop there and he would tell me what happened that day as a novelty, one anecdote among many, a folkloric detail about our city and our history.
And while I heard the story, about the radio drama, about our brief Quiteño apocalypse and the violent reaction that came later, I would think: who really are the aliens in this story?
[Daniel]: Lisette Arévalo is a producer with Radio Ambulante. She lives in Quito. This story was edited by Camila Segura, Luis Fernando Vargas, and me. The music and sound design are by Andrés Azpiri. Andrea López Cruzado did the fact-checking.
The rest of the Radio Ambulante team includes Gabriela Brenes, Jorge Caraballo, Victoria Estrada, Rémy Lozano, Miranda Mazariegos, Patrick Moseley, Laura Rojas Aponte, Barbara Sawhill, Luis Trelles, David Trujillo, Elsa Liliana Ulloa, and Joseph Zárate. Carolina Guerrero is the CEO.
Radio Ambulante is produced and mixed on Hindenburg PRO.
Radio Ambulante tells the stories of Latin America. I’m Daniel Alarcón. Thanks for listening.
In the next episode of Radio Ambulante: a kid goes to their school library, picks a book, reads it, and then…
[Journalist]: Controversy in Chile over the distribution of a book with erotic content to elementary school students.
[Galo Ghigliotto]: It was a week or ten days during which the subject was discussed every day.
[Daniel]: A country on its head over a book, next week.