Los años maravillosos

An experimental bilingual podcast exploring a relationship between two siblings and their childhood memories in a small town in the Colombian Andes.

Partners: Suzanne Snider and Casiuss Adair – professors at the School of Media Studies, The New School.
Timeline: April 2023 (1 month).

Approach: Oral history, podcast, visual annotations.
Topics: Memory, family secrets, death, silence, childhood in a small Andean town.

Team: Duvan Mejia.
My role: Oral historian, illustrator, writer, and podcast producer.

This experimental podcast explores a relationship between two siblings and their childhood memories in a small town in the Colombian Andes. Using oral history methodologies for the interview, transcriptions, and visual and verbal annotations, this moving piece explores family secrets, death, love, and a late effort to break silences and strengthen a distant relationship.

Outcomes and reflections

This piece results from six months of learning and practicing oral history methodologies, podcast production, and my deep love for oral and visual storytelling.

The oral history approach applied to this project has allowed me to broker difficult conversations and get into the anecdotal level of details with my brother, as it has never happened before, which has ultimately promoted healing between us. Thanks to the open-ended questions, long pauses, and notions of reciprocity, consent, and shared authority, I could unpack some of my family’s collective and individual memories that have remained in silence for years and have shaped how we relate and behave around each other.

The bilingual aspect of the final podcast is not only a decision taken for this audio to be enjoyed by an English and Spanish speakers audience alike but also speaks about the distance between my family and me. Distance developed over years of not living together (in the same house and the same territory) and sharing different worldviews, dreams, and despairs.

The visual annotations of the project also served as an ethnography tool that portrays fragments of how it is to grow up in a small town in the middle of the Colombian Andes.

After this first attempt, I plan to continue this project with a series of interviews with my mom, where I can complete a familiar landscape of stories marked by years of silence.

Projects details

Pre oral history interview:
  • Request for the interview with the narrator
  • Preparation of joint statement of intent – JSOI
  • Preparation of open-ended questions on the life history approach focusing on childhood memories. 
  • Preparation of the room and recording devices.
During Oral history Interview
  • The interviewer and narrator sign in the JSOI
  • Audio ID
  • Primary and backup recording.
Post oral history interview
  • Creation of transcripts
  • Written annotations to transcripts
  • Visual annotations to transcripts
  • Sending interview recording to the narrator
Podcast production:
  • Detailed written annotations
  • Scriptwriting
  • Translations from Spanish to English
  • Voice over recording
  • Audio editing

Inspiration and references: