Did a Young Latina and Her Dog Just Turn the Superhero Genre on Its Head?
Through the first four episodes of the newly launched Perla Garcia Mysteries Podcast the sleuthing stories of Perla Garcia and her trusty German Shepherd sidekick, Valiente, which means brave in Spanish, were rolling along just fine. Each episode stood alone, similar to those on Scooby Doo.
Then in episode five things took a twist. A villain, who stole the photograph of La Llorona, was introduced, then the episode carried over into the first season’s last episode, where Perla discovered that La Llorona, El Cucuy, El Chupacabra and La Lechuza are not ghosts, creatures or monsters trying to scare or steal children away, but superheroes who strive to protect children from the evil powers that be! Better yet, Perla also discovers that her Grandmother Cecilia, a curandera, someone who practices folk medicine and uses herbs, and some say magic, to heal the sick, “hangs out with the Fearless Four.”
The first season ends with these revelations which are a perfect cliffhanger heading into the second season. If you’ve yet to listen to The Perla Garcia Mysteries Podcast, I strongly suggest that you do, and if you have children, listen to the podcast together! The mysteries are fun, educational and serve to bridge cultural gaps. They also fit easily in your busy life, as they're between 10-20 minutes each. The creator, writer and producer of The Perla Garcia Mysteries is eclectic Michigan writer Rodolfo Alvarado. I was lucky to meet him several years ago at a local author event, and I've been following his incredible work every since. I was excited to get the chance to catch up with him again about his outstanding podcast. (The production quality is incredible. It's so enjoyable to listen to and genuinely impressive. Do yourself a favor and check it out.)
SJ: The Perla Garcia Mysteries Podcast is based on the book series of the same name. Where did the original inspiration for the books come from?
RA: My children, my sister, Perla, and my desire to write stories that feature, and are for Latino children, while at the same time introducing children to a different culture than their own.
SJ: As a librarian, we talk about books being mirrors and windows. Mirrors to show our own experiences and windows into those different from ours. So, your Perla podcasts are a vehicle for Latino children to shine, while also bringing children from all backgrounds together.
RA: Yes, together through language, learning and storytelling.
SJ: There are currently two books in the series. Will there be any more?
RA: Yes, four more, which are based on stories that have been, and will be, featured in the podcast.
SJ: In regard to the Perla Garcia podcast, the revelation of La Llorona, El Cucuy, El Chupacabra and La Lechuza as superheroes caught me completely off-guard. What a cool twist!
RA: It caught me off-guard too! I know that the revelation completely caught Perla y Valiente off-guard.
SJ: Did the idea of the Fearless Four, come to you as you were writing the podcast?
RA: No, not really. The idea of La Llorona, El Cucuy and the others like them being superheroes has been with me for decades, but I could never find a way of introducing them to the world until Perla y Valiente showed me the way.
SJ: It's hard for non-writers to understand, but our characters really do speak to us. Is it fair to say that Perla and Valiente deserve the bulk of the credit for the introduction of the Fearless Four to the world?
RA: Yes, it is! Them, and all the children who emailed me about how much they loved Perla y Valiente. I wanted to give them something that they would never expect; not in a million years.
SJ: What I really appreciated most about the Fearless Four was they are steeped in Latino myth and folklore; ghosts, creatures or monsters, that as you were telling me earlier, most Latino children grow up hearing about.
RA: Oh yes, I couldn’t walk out the door as a kid without my mom warning me to get home before dark or La Llorona or El Cucuy was going to get me. But as kids I think we all heard---regardless of where we came from---the boogeyman. It’s like that but imagine that the boogeyman is not out to get you, but to protect you.
SJ: Has anyone ever tried to use these mythic “characters” in this way before?
RA: Not that I know of, but they are perfect for season two of the podcast.
SJ: Can you tell us anything about season two?
RA: Surprises will be many and el Barrio de Guadalupe, the neighborhood where Perla y Valiente live, will be revealed as the center of a fantastical world where good and magic live and the evil powers that be want to destroy.
SJ: I understand there is a children’s play in the works based on the book series and podcast’s first episode featuring La Llorona?
RA: Yes, I just completed the play with mentorship, and tremendous input, from Julianna Gonzalez. She is an established playwright from the east coast now living in Michigan, who has had plays produced throughout the country.
SJ: How did the two of you connect?
RA: She was recommended to me by Emilio Rodriguez of the Black and Brown Theatre of Detroit. They’ve been in existence for a number of years. They're dedicated to advocacy for work created, directed and performed by artists of color. You can find them easily on the Internet. They are a non-profit so if you can, donate. It’ll go to a great cause.
SJ: The acting and the music in the podcast are outstanding. Where did you find performers and musicians?
RA: Internet searches and recommendations. Daisy Guevara, the actress who plays Perla, works out of New York. She has a number of credits to her name and is a joy to work with. Joshua Zambrano is an actor from Chicago and Jasmine Kuyayki Broe is an actress from Peru, living in Michigan. They were recommended to me by Emilio. I’ve known Melody Korkmaz, Juan-Daniel S. Coronado, musician Steve Somers and singer Valerie Barrymore for years. The composer of the theme song and another song in the podcast is Eduardo Garcia Rascon. He also sings on the songs with Alejandra Calvete. They are both from Mexico. I am grateful to all of them for their hard work and dedication in making the podcast a success.
SJ: What’s the ultimate goal for The Perla Garcia Mysteries?
RA: I would love to see the podcast find a home as an animation series similar to Dora, the Explorer or Molly of Denali. The book series become bestsellers and the play to tour the U.S., South America and the world.
SJ: Do you know when the second season of the Perla Garcia podcast will premiere?
RA: We’re aiming for the fall of 2022. In the meantime, we’re looking to secure sponsorships, grants or donations to keep the series going.
SJ: How can individuals and corporations assist with the Perla Garcia podcast?
RA: If a company is interested in sponsoring season two, they can email us at email@example.com and we’ll reach out with details. Individuals can make a tax-deductible donation at http://www.theperlagarciamysteries.com.
SJ: It’s been a pleasure catching up with you. Thank you for your time, continued success with The Perla Garcia Mysteries and your other projects.
RA: The pleasure was all mine. I am grateful for the invitation and for all that you do in support of writers and creatives in all areas of the arts!
The Perla Garcia Mysteries podcast is truly a treat. I hope YOU will check it out for yourself and make your own tax-deductible donation to this inspiring creative endeavor.