Final episode of ‘Facets’ from KHOL and Stio shares stories of immigration to Jackson Hole

The last episode of 'Facets' digs into local immigration history and shares stories of how Latino immigrants and first-generation residents are putting down roots and making Jackson home.
Roney de la Cruz
Four days a week, Roney de la Cruz drives a bus of mostly Latino students to a bilingual pre-school. His route represents how a wave of immigration, primarily from Mexico, has transformed the workforce, schools and broader community of Jackson Hole since the mid-1990s. (Natalie Schachar/KHOL)


KHOL and Stio recently launched a new limited-run podcast series called “Facets: Voices of the Mountain Life.” In five episodes, Facets explores the passions, tensions and healing that people find while living in a mountain town. The fifth and final episode, “Making Jackson Home,” debuted on Friday, May 27.

KHOL News Director Kyle Mackie reported and produced the episode on how a wave of immigration, primarily from Mexico, has transformed the workforce, schools and broader community of Jackson Hole since the mid-1990s. Listen above to hear Mackie discuss her reporting and the making of the episode with KHOL Music and Community Affairs Director Jack Catlin.

The following interview transcript has been edited for clarity and brevity.


JACK CATLIN: So, Kyle, can you tell me about the inspiration for this story?

KYLE MACKIE: As many people who are listening probably know, about 22% of Jackson’s population identify as Hispanic or Latino.* That’s according to the most recent 2020 U.S. Census. But we know that’s also likely an undercount. 30% is a number that gets heard more informally around town. So, this is a significant part of the community. And this longform project of Facets really gave us an opportunity to share some voices and share some stories that, frankly, are undercovered in local media—undercovered and underrepresented, too.

We are very lucky at KHOL to have one of the region’s only Latina reporters doing some original Spanish-language reporting for us. Alicia Unger, she’s our Spanish-language correspondent. But we are her kind of side hustle, she’s a freelancer for us. So, obviously, we would love to do more. That’s really a goal of the station to do more Spanish-language and bilingual reporting moving forward. But this project presented a really cool opportunity and we were like, let’s do an immigration-focused episode [and] bring some of those voices to the air, share some of these stories in a longer format and give folks the space to tell us their stories about immigration.

CATLIN: So, I understand the team did some Spanish-language reporting for this episode. How did that all work?

MACKIE: Yeah, this episode really took a village to report and produce. I’m not a Spanish speaker myself—I’m trying to learn. But anyway, we had two awesome freelancers who contributed reporting in Spanish for this episode: Natalie Schachar, who used to work in Mexico City, and Alicia Unger, who’s originally from Mexico City. They both did some awesome Spanish-language reporting for this episode. They did interviews in Spanish. And that’s because that was the language that these folks were most comfortable speaking, right? We wanted people to be able to express themselves as fully as they could, and if Spanish was the language that needed to happen in, fantastic, we made it work.

And so then I was able to kind of gather and listen to all of that tape, and with some help from our reporter Will Walkey, who is also a Spanish speaker, we were able to identify, okay, like ‘Here are the pieces of this interview that we really want to use.’ We were able to confirm the translations of quotes and then have folks voice English voiceovers. And in doing those voiceovers, something that’s kind of [the] NPR standard in radio is when you have a quote from, let’s say, like a Mexican man in his 40s, you kind of try and match that same profile when you have somebody do the voiceover. So, all of our English voiceovers were done by men—they just all happened to be men for this episode, at least for the voiceovers—who also identify as Hispanic or Latino. We’re not always right on with the age, but I wanted to give a special shoutout to [local residents] Jr Rodriguez, Iván Jiménez, Juan Gallego-Calderon and my friend Eddy Martinez. They all contributed voiceovers. So again, this really took a village to put together.

CATLIN: This episode had some great characters in it. Can you tell us about some of those folks?

MACKIE: So, the first one who opens the episode is Roney de la Cruz. He’s a bus driver for the Children’s Learning Center here in town. I loved hearing his story, [and I’m] so grateful that Natalie Schachar was able to do this reporting with him. He seems to have created such a welcoming and friendly environment in his bus, you know, driving these little, little kids to a bilingual pre-school program four days a week. He’s one of our main characters. He’s a Mexican immigrant in his late 40s. And then we also hear from his wife, Miriam Morillon, in this episode. Together, the two of them founded this group called Camina Conmigo, which is a hiking group for Latino adults that was founded a couple of years ago out of sort of lack of an organization like that for Latino adults in the community.

There are certainly lots of programs like Coombs Outdoors, is the big one that people probably know of, that specialize in youth access to outdoor recreation, and they serve a lot of Latino families—teaching kids to do everything from skiing to rock climbing and hiking, etc. Roney and Miriam started this hiking group for adults to help their parents also get outside, too.

And then one of the other main voices, and I’m going to have to leave some people out [in this interview], but we also hear from Marcela Badillo in this episode. She’s also a Mexican immigrant. She’s from Tlaxcala, which is the state where many of Jackson’s Latino community trace their roots. And she’s lived in Jackson for about 20 years. [She] came here when she was 17. And she has a really powerful story and is now a community organizer with this nonprofit called Voices JH. She’s also a member of Jackson’s new Equity Task Force.

And then sort of on the other side of things, we also talked to some immigration services providers in this episode to kind of get a better understanding of the legal environment of immigration [and] nonprofit services, that side of things. Some of the other voices in this piece are Elisabeth Trefonas, who’s a very well-known immigration attorney in town, Jordan Rich of Voices JH and Lori McCune of Immigrant Hope Wyoming/Idaho.

CATLIN: This episode spans the period from about the mid-1990s, when many Mexicans started coming into the Jackson area for seasonal work, up to the present day. Can you talk about the evolution of Jackson’s Latino community during that time and the challenges faced then versus now?

MACKIE: I’m super grateful for this opportunity through this reporting to learn about this history. And I’ll also say, you know, I’m going to just keep my answer short. I’m not a member of this community, and it was a privilege to do these interviews and do this research, but people can also go kind of directly to the source. And I encourage anybody who’s listening who wants to learn more, you know, go to these organizations like One22 Research Center, like Voices JH. There are so many organizations that are really serving this community, have bilingual staff, etc. But one thing we do kind of track in this episode is this growing shift in civic and political power. And that’s something that author Justin Farrell also talked about in his 2020 book, “Billionaire Wilderness.” We have him read a couple of passages from the book in this episode, actually. You know, it’s just kind of this notion that Jackson today is not the same town it was in the mid-1990s. There are more resources and more engagement with the Latino community really than ever before. It can always still be better, of course, there can be more integration, and there’s still a lot of segregation, as we know.

But through organizations like One22 Resource Center, which was this conglomerate of three different organizations that came together to really provide wraparound services [for immigrants]. And this group Voices JH, which is featured in the episode, their goal is to really create a more equitable community in Jackson, and this formed in the beginning of the pandemic. And they have a network of community mobilizers, they serve all immigrant communities, not just Spanish-speaking communities in Jackson. Our episode focused on the Mexican-American community in Jackson since it’s the largest immigrant group in town, but they have a group of immigrant community mobilizers and first-generation residents. They’re trying to make this like a two-way bridge of both empowering immigrants in Jackson to know about resources that are available. You know, it kind of started with information about the COVID-19 pandemic in those early, crazy, confusing days. But they’re also trying to make it a two-way bridge and be a resource for [immigrant] families to be able to come and say, ‘Hey, here’s what we need.’

So, I was really grateful to get to know about Voices JH’s work through this reporting. [And] this growing shift in political power, you know, it looks like a lot of different things. We talk about how it looks like immigrants starting and operating successful businesses in Jackson Hole and helping to run some of the richest nonprofits in the world that are based here in Jackson and serving on the new Equity Task Force, which Marcela, who’s in the episode, she’s a member of. And then we talk about, too, like a very Jackson way: By getting into outdoor recreation. You know, some of these immigrants are from places where maybe winter sports weren’t possible in their home countries. And looking at like, you know, Roney and Miriam starting Camina Conmigo, this hiking group. It’s a very Jackson way, but it’s a big way of [asserting their] belonging here and feeling like part of this community.

CATLIN: So, Kyle wrapping up here: Anything else you’d like to share with us?

MACKIE: I just would like to thank everybody who shared their stories, shared their expertise for this episode. And, you know, again, just to encourage anybody who wants to go deeper and if you’re listening and you feel like, ‘Well, I know this community is out there [but] I don’t really have too much personal engagement with them myself.’ There are programs like the library has a language exchange program, which I think, Jack, you did that program…

CATLIN: I did! Right before COVID hit. Yeah, it’s a great program. You go in and you’re paired up with someone from the Latino community and you speak Spanish for half an hour and they speak only English for half an hour. So, it’s a little nerve-racking, but it’s very useful. And yeah, I learned a lot just from going to a few sessions before, unfortunately, quarantine kind of squandered that. But yeah, I’d love to get back in there. It’s a great program.

MACKIE: Yeah, I’d love to get my Spanish up to that level where I can actually talk for half an hour. But anyway, there are lots of resources out there, and we recognize that this episode is not like an end-all, be-all. It’s not the story of immigration in Jackson. It’s just kind of one story. And we hope that this is more of a launching board for folks to continue doing their own learning and engagement moving forward.

CATLIN: You can listen to Facets on Spotify, Apple or wherever you listen to podcasts.

*KHOL used the term Latino in this episode at the advice of our Spanish-language correspondent and because it’s the most common way that people of Latin American descent describe themselves, according to a recent study by the Pew Research Center. Some people prefer the gender-neutral alternative Latinx.

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About Jack Catlin

Jack is KHOL's music director. He says all music is in some way connected no matter the style and his mission is to provide listeners with a unique and memorable experience each time they tune in to KHOL or see him DJ live.

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