Historias – StoryCorps
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“I Thought You Knew:” A Love Story Like No Other

In the mid-90s, Chhaya Chhoum shared some high school classes with Eddie Rivera. Eddie was more interested in sports than school, but the two connected.

Eddie Rivera and Chhaya Chhoum early in their relationship after a 1996 snow storm in New York City. Courtesy of Chhaya Chhoum.

Chhaya grew up the daughter of Cambodian refugees in the Bronx, and Eddie came from a Puerto Rican family in Manhattan. Starting out as just a friend, Eddie won over Chhaya – and her extended family. Chhaya and Eddie came to StoryCorps to reminisce about how they met and some of the unexpected ways their cultural differences shaped their relationship. .  

Top Photo: Chhaya Chhoum and Eddie Rivera at their StoryCorps interview in the Bronx, NY on January 11, 2014. By Jill Glaser 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 March 3, 2023, on NPR’s Morning Edition.

With your support, StoryCorps is able to record more stories that help lift up underrepresented voices, bridge political and social divides, and preserve personal histories for the future.


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.  

With your support, StoryCorps is able to record more stories that help lift up underrepresented voices, bridge political and social divides, and preserve personal histories for the future.


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.

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.

‘A Package Deal’: Two Brothers Face Mortality Together

David Carles and his little brother, Mark Carles, were best friends.

David and Mark Carles at a family wedding in 2002. Courtesy of Mark Carles.

Growing up on Staten Island, the two did everything together. But in 2018, at the age of 24, Mark’s life was upended by a rare form of liver cancer called fibrolamellar hepatocellular carcinoma.

David Carles’ Tinder profile. Courtesy of David Carles.

A year after that diagnosis, the brothers sat down at StoryCorps in New York City to talk about the ways Mark’s illness had changed their lives.

Mark died on February 24th, 2022. He was 27. David came back to StoryCorps to remember him, just a few days after his death.  

Top photo: Mark Carles and David Carles at their StoryCorps interview in New York City on November 6th, 2019. By Mia Warren for StoryCorps.

Listen to David and Mark’s original 2019 conversation:

Originally aired November 22nd, 2019, on NPR’s Morning Edition. An edited version was rebroadcast on March 4, 2022 on the same program.

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. 

Honoring the Penniless and Forgotten: A Man’s Reflection On Hart Island

It is estimated that more than one million people are buried in New York City’s Hart Island, the city’s public cemetery, and the final resting place for unclaimed, penniless or unidentified individuals.

For the better part of its 150-year history, the island was closed off to the public. The only visitors allowed to witness the burials were the gravediggers themselves. Because the Department of Correction managed the island, the burials have long been the job of incarcerated people.

Casimiro “Cas” Torres was one of them. In the late 1980s, he was arrested for robbery, and sent to Hart Island to bury and disinter bodies.

Almost three decades later, he came to StoryCorps to keep their memory alive.

Cas Torres in his late teens, around the same time he was imprisoned and transferred to Hart Island.

This story aired July of 2021, when jurisdiction of Hart Island transferred from New York City Department of Correction to the City’s Human Resources Administration and Parks and Recreation, formally ending the practice of using inmates to carry out the burials.

Top Photo: Cas Torres at their StoryCorps interview in New York City on January 30, 2015. By John White for StoryCorps.

Originally aired July 16, 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.

2 Sisters on Enjoying Life: “Instead of a Drama or a Novela, Make It a Sitcom”

Brenda Ulloa Martinez and her sister, Corina Ulloa, grew up in the Boyle Heights neighborhood of Los Angeles in the 1980s.

Both of their parents worked. Prior to opening a bridal shop together, Irma worked as a seamstress in a factory and Arnulfo as a delivery truck driver. So the young sisters would often rely on public transportation to get to school. This also meant they’d return home to an empty house.

Left to right: Brenda Ulloa Martinez, at age 4,  and Corina Ulloa, at age 2, in their family apartment in Los Angeles in the 1970s.

In 2010, they came to StoryCorps to share some of their hard-earned wisdom with the next generation: Brenda’s daughters, Camila Martinez and Isabela Martinez.

Top Photo (left to right): Corina Ulloa, Brenda Ulloa Martinez, Camila Martinez, and Isabela Martinez at their StoryCorps interview in Los Angeles, California on March 6, 2010. By Alejandro De La Cruz for StoryCorps.

Originally aired January 29, 2021, on NPR’s Morning Edition.