Historias Archives - StoryCorps

Transcending Blindness, a Marathon Runner Thanks His Daughter for Her Support

Jason Romero suffers from retinitis pigmentosa, a condition that causes progressive blindness. In 2015, he was forced to stop driving and quit his job, which plunged him into a deep depression. But Jason was most concerned about how it would impact his family.

“The most important thing to me is to be a good dad to you and your brother and your sister, and I just didn’t know how I was going to be able to do it if I couldn’t see,” he said.

Jason Romero and his youngest daughter, Sofia Romero, in San Diego, California in August 2022. Courtesy Jason Romero.

Jason turned to running as a way to prove that he could push his body past what people thought possible. After becoming an ultramarathon runner, he had the seemingly crazy idea of being the first blind person to run across the United States. So he hit the road.

Jason Romero in his 2016 run across the United States. Courtesy Jason Romero.

In 2016, he set off on a 3,063 mile, 59 day run from Los Angeles to New York City. But while he was away, he thought about his family – especially his youngest daughter, Sofia.

Top Photo: Sofia Romero and Jason Romero in Denver, Colorado on January 4, 2023. By Esther Honig for StoryCorps.

Originally aired January 6, 2023, on NPR’s Morning Edition.

This broadcast is supported in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, a private corporation funded by the American people, and the National Endowment for the Arts.

 

Two Love Birds Bring The Holiday Spirit To The White House

Growing up in Piura, Peru Hugo Sánchez always noticed his classmate, Marité. But despite his best efforts she didn’t return his feelings. Hugo left Peru for the U.S. with his family at the age of 13, but returned for a summer vacation three years later.

This time, there was a spark. The two kicked up a whirlwind romance, but they were ripped apart as he returned to the states.  

Marité Espinoza Sánchez and Hugo Sánchez in 2007 in Urbana, IL. Courtesy of Marité Sánchez for StoryCorps.

In 2022 the couple had been married for 15 years and through Marité’s work as an expert crafter they were selected to volunteer as White House holiday decorators. Every holiday season, people from across the country are invited by First Lady Jill Biden to decorate the White House.

 

Marité Espinoza Sánchez and Hugo Sánchez at the White House Decorating Event in Washington, D.C. in November 2022. Courtesy of Marité Sánchez for StoryCorps.

Hugo and Marité Sánchez took a break from wreath making and tinsel spreading to record a conversation with StoryCorps.

 

Top Photo: Marité Espinoza Sánchez and Hugo Sánchez at their StoryCorps interview in Washington, D.C. on November 27, 2022. By Bella Gonzalez for StoryCorps.

This broadcast is supported in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, a private corporation funded by the American people, and the National Endowment for the Arts.

Originally aired December 23, 2022, on NPR’s Morning Edition.

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A Neighbor’s Promise — A Blended Family Remembers Their Journey

In 2016, Glendon “Junior” Booth and his three young kids moved into an apartment building for families facing homelessness in Austin, Texas. Soon after, Jennifer Hidrogo, a single mom of five, became his neighbor.

The two families started leaning on each other. Jen’s kids would play with Junior’s, and the parents would stop and chat, while leaning up against their doors.

But within the year, Junior was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. 

Jen came to StoryCorps with her daughter, Charlee, and her neighbor’s daughter, Lily Rose, to talk about what happened next.

Kristopher Rios, Desiree Martinez- Iturralde, Emma Booth, LilyRose Hidrogo-Booth, Jennifer Hidrogo, Kayla Rios, Charlee Rios, Dalton Booth, and Azriel Rios the day of the adoption ceremony at the Travis County CourtHouse on August 16th, 2019.
Top Photo: Charlee Rios, Jennifer Hidrogo, and LilyRose Hidrogo-Booth at their StoryCorps interview in Austin, TX on March 13th, 2022. For StoryCorps.

Originally aired June 3rd, 2022, on NPR’s Morning Edition.

A New Heart And A New Path: Transplant Recipient Shares Lifelong Dream With Her Mom

When Gianna Paniagua was just a baby, she was diagnosed with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy — a heart defect that led her to severe heart failure. Gianna was 14 months old when she received her first heart transplant.

Gianna with her mother, Lourdes, at the hospital after her first transplant in October 1992.
Courtesy of Gianna Paniagua.

Even with a new heart, Gianna spent most of her life in and out of hospitals. Those experiences shaped her childhood, and she remembers being surrounded by doctors for most of her life.

Gianna as a child playing doctor with her dolls. Courtesy of Gianna Paniagua.

During these countless appointments and medical procedures, Gianna was able to lean on her mom, Lourdes Matamoros. Lourdes has been by Gianna’s side for decades — including when she received her second heart transplant in 2021.

Gianna (right) in the hospital with her mom after receiving her pacemaker in 2018. Courtesy of Lourdes Matamoros.

A year after receiving a new heart, Gianna came to StoryCorps to speak with her mom about her plans for the future.

Top Photo: Lourdes Matamoros and Gianna Paniagua at their StoryCorps interview in Nashville, Tennessee on March 17, 2022. Taken for StoryCorps.

Originally aired April 8, 2022, on NPR’s Morning Edition.

Her Aunt Saw Her for Who She Truly Was

In 2018, at the age of 63, Dee Westenhauser came out as a transgender woman. But growing up in El Paso, Texas in the 1950s, she remembers having a hard time fitting in.

At StoryCorps, Dee sat down with her friend, Martha Gonzalez, to remember the one person who made her feel comfortable in her own skin.

Photo: Dee Westenhauser and Martha Gonzalez at StoryCorps in El Paso, TX. By Nicolas Cadena for StoryCorps.

Originally aired April 5, 2019, on NPR’s Morning Edition. It was rebroadcast on March 11, 2022 on the same program.

How A Shared Language Helped Two Young People Find Their Voice

In 2006, Luis Paulino immigrated to the U.S. from the Dominican Republic. He was a child and didn’t speak any English, so he struggled during his first year in school.

Four years later — then a senior in high school — he’d meet Angel Gonzalez, who reminded him of his younger self. Angel was also a transfer student from the Dominican Republic, and he was facing challenges that Luis could understand.

Angel Gonzalez and Luis Paulino, in New York, after Luis’s high school graduation in 2011. Courtesy of Angel Gonzalez.

They came to StoryCorps to remember that time, and how they got through it together.

Originally aired January 7th, 2022 on NPR’s Morning Edition.

Siblings Remember Their Father, A Combat Pilot Who Served In Three Wars

Growing up in the 1930s, Lt. Col. Miguel Encinias wasn’t sure if his dream of becoming a military pilot was in reach. In those days, combat pilots of Hispanic heritage were almost unheard of. 

But Encinias was accepted into the Air Force cadet school, and would go and serve as a combat pilot in World War II, Korea and Vietnam. He flew around 240 combat missions in all.

Miguel Encinias in Saigon, Vietnam, in 1961. (Courtesy of the Encinias family)

He died in 2016, at the age of 92.

Two of his children, Isabel and Juan Pablo Encinias, came to StoryCorps to remember him and his love for flying.

Juan Pablo Encinias and Isabel Encinias in 2016. (Courtesy of the Encinias family)
Top Photo: Miguel Encinias crouched beneath a F105 aircraft in 1967.  (Courtesy of the Encinias family)

Originally aired November 5, 2021, on NPR’s Morning Edition. 

“Optimism Never Failed Me:” Former Child Actor and Cuban Refugee Tells Grandson to Keep Dreaming

Growing up in Havana, Cuba, Mario García was a child actor who was featured in commercials, telenovelas, and the 1961 film El Joven Rebelde.

Mario García on the set of the Cuban telenovela, Esta Es Tu Vida. Courtesy of Mario García.

That all changed when he had to flee as a refugee during the Castro regime, along with 14,000 Cuban children under Operation Peter Pan. In February 1962, he boarded a plane to live with his aunt and uncle in Miami, where he went from learning his lines to learning English.

Mario went on to start a family and become a successful journalist and though he had to put his acting career aside, he never gave up on returning to the screen. Now in his early 70s, Mario continues to audition and was an extra in the film In the Heights. Mario’s grandson, Maximilian García, has inherited his grandfather’s passion for acting.

At StoryCorps, Max asked his grandfather about how he got his start on screen.

Top Photo: Dr. Mario García and his grandson, Maximilian García. Courtesy of Mario García.

This interview is part of the Tapestry of Voices Collection through StoryCorps’ American Pathways initiative. This initiative is made possible by the Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art and an Anonymous Foundation. Additional support is provided by the Stuart Family Foundation. It will be archived at the Library of Congress.

Originally aired July 30th, 2021 on NPR’s Morning Edition.

Her Son Wasn’t Expected To Survive. Now He’s Showing Her “How To Live”

Isaiah Acosta was born with several health issues, including a rare condition called agnathia in which he doesn’t have a lower jaw. Because of that, he can’t eat, speak or breathe on his own.

When he was born, doctors warned his parents that Isaiah had gone several minutes without oxygen and that he probably wouldn’t last through the night.

Tarah and Isaiah Acosta, approximately a month after Isaiah’s birth

Eighteen years later, on the verge of his high school graduation, Isaiah sat down to have this StoryCorps conversation with his mom, Tarah Acosta.

A note to listeners: Isaiah communicates by typing into an app on his phone and tablet, which then translates his words into audio. 

Top Photo (left to right): Tarah and Isaiah Acosta at their StoryCorps interview in Phoenix, AZ on May 14, 2018. By Mia Warren for StoryCorps

Originally aired May 21, 2021, on NPR’s Morning Edition.

Divided By Immigration Status: Brothers Reflect On Their Bond

Growing up in Bakersfield, California, Randy Villegas and his older brother Angel lived under the same roof, but in separate realities: Randy was a U.S. citizen, but Angel was undocumented.

Randy (left) and Angel (right)  at the California Speedway car show, in Fontana, CA. in 1999

In 2012, Angel became a recipient of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, a government program that protects nearly 700,000 immigrants brought into the United States as children from deportation. It also grants them a range of benefits, such as work permits and health insurance from employers who offer it. Despite this, every decision Angel makes is still influenced by the uncertainty of his residency status.

The two siblings came to StoryCorps in 2020, when they were in their twenties, to talk for the first time about the moment Angel realized he was undocumented, and how that affected their relationship.

Top Photo: Angel and Randy Villegas at Angel’s graduation ceremony from the New School of Architecture & Design in San Diego in 2018. Courtesy of the participants.

This interview is part of the Tapestry of Voices Collection through StoryCorps’ American Pathways initiative. This initiative is made possible by the Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art and an Anonymous Foundation. Additional support is provided by the Stuart Family Foundation. It will be archived at the Library of Congress.

Originally aired April 23rd, 2021 on NPR’s Morning Edition.