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Freedom and Perceptions that Cross Borders

I am going to act like this is The New Yorker magazine and offer a "combined" blog posting. We will be on the air tomorrow, as per usual, but we are going to disappear for the holiday shortly thereafter.

Our New York team was en route (at least I was) from New York City yesterday when we realized that some of the longest held the hostages in Colombia — including three Americans, and former Colombian presidential candidate Ingrid Betancourt — had been freed. I saw a breaking news bulletin on my BlackBerry. Thankfully, our folks here in D.C. were already on the case.

Will you allow me to brag a bit about how one of our staffers, Jasmine Garsd (a native Spanish speaker, from Argentina), jumped in to assist the network's coverage? I heard about this through the grapevine. Apparently, some people were chatting a bit too loudly right near her desk at TMM and she says:

Guys, do you think you could keep it down. I'm talking to the Ambassador.

Take a bow Jaz!

But then, of course, we had to decide what our take on this story would be. We decided we needed to answer some of the key questions folks might have — being reminded that some folks use our program as their morning news show — but then we decided to also answer a question we were already thinking about...

By coincidence Republican presidential candidate Sen. John McCain was in Colombia at the time of the rescue. We wondered, why exactly is he there? To call attention to his differences with rival Democratic candidate Sen. Barack Obama on trade, obviously.

But how do you decide exactly where to travel when you are campaigning for president?

What's the message? ... The audience?

To talk about that we had Stephen Hess, of the Brookings Institution, who has spent decades thinking about how presidential campaigns are run and how presidents operate. Hess was joined by Jesus Esquivel, of Mexico's Proceso magazine.

John McCain spent the second part of his three-day Latin America tour in Mexico. And Barack Obama announced plans to travel there later this fall. Today, of course, Obama talked about his plans to go to Iraq at some point.

So having said all that, what about when even Hollywood decides to "go" overseas? Our film critic Shawn Edwards does not like too much of what he sees when that happens.

And then, I hope a treat, what happens when technomeets norteno music? The answer: Nortec. It's a group out of Tijuana, Mexico and, well, you just have to listen.

After interviewing Nortec, which I interviewed weeks ago, I worried that I had not pressed hard enough on the issue of the violence along the border, especially that which is associated with the drug trade. Just a day or so after the Nortec interview, there was a story about how the doctors were going on strike to protest the lack of security at the hospital and for them personally. Oddly enough, one of the musicians involved with Nortec is also a doctor.

But then I was reminded of something that award-winning playwright Lin-Manuel Miranda said (he spoke with us earlier this week) in response to critics of his musical In the Heights, about the Washington Heights neighborhood in New York. Miranda points out how some critics find it hard to imagine that there could be two days in which nobody gets shot or stabbed.

Mexico has a proud artistic tradition, in both the so-called fine and folk arts. Could we have one conversation about Mexico were we don't talk about the drug trade?

Still, did I do the right thing by not pressing the issue?

Happy Fourth. Hope you enjoy visiting with Jimmy Smits, as part of our July 4th program, as much as I did.



Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.

I heard the commenter on offensive movies coming out of Hollywood. I was concerned that both Borat and the Love Guru movie starred not US citizens but stars from other countries (Mike Myers of Canada and Sasha Cohen from Great Britain). It would be helpful to note that bad taste and ugliness in content may emanate from abroad. While American audiences (along with foreign audiences) deserve blame for making these horrible movies popular, we don't deserve all of the approbation heaped on us by your commenter.
Second note: I realized in listening to your wonderful coverage of the Tijuana artists that your program allows me to cross borders without any documents! I have been listening since you began sending out the "Rough Cuts" podcasts, you are a wonderful interviewer and I wish you many, many more programs!
As a (white) Howard Law graduate living in DC and working on Capitol Hill (member of WHUT, WAMU, WETA, and WHYY), I relish your reach into many diverse communities/countries. Please know that you have a faithful listener who enjoys your interviews via Podcasts.

Sent by Kevin Mulshine | 3:56 PM | 7-4-2008

I'm from Brooklyn, too, and was in the graduating class after Jimmy's at Brooklyn College. I remember that Jimmy was considered to have the best-looking rear-end on campus. ;) He won a theater department award in his senior year, and when he went up on stage to receive the award, girls actually squealed. ;)

Sent by Theresa | 2:33 PM | 7-7-2008

Hey Michel,

Great show today! I thoroughly enjoyed Renee Marie and applaud her for staying true to her artistic integrity. I for one think her arrangement is masterful and the idea absolutely genius. This country gives alot of lip service to coming together and equality, but when someone steps up and expresses it the words suddenly don't apply. I appreciate her sentiment in combining the two songs. I think this expression is proof of her love for America and all of the people in America.

I also enjoyed the discussion on the film 'Disappearing Voices'. I love radio and the decline of Black radio and its diversity is not only disturbing but also a career killer. The names that you mentioned (Mo'nique, Michael Blaisden, Tom Joyner) do a great job but Mo'nique and I dare say Blaisden and Joyner are entertainers. They tackle a few issues here and there, Joyner does this very well but they are still essentially entertainers. Black talk radio where issues and views, (Like the Black Eagle, Joe Madison) are very few anymore. So, where do we go to hear thoughtful, insightful discussion about issues that affect our communities both locally and nationally? Also, not just in Black radio but the radio industry in general, there is no local news coverage. For journalists of color, there really is not where for us to go. Yes, working mainstream media is fine but where do we train? Where do we learn how to care about the people we represent? Unless we go to a national media outlet, and they can pick and choose, where to up and coming journalist go? Our communities are being short changed by the lack of ownership by people of color and the consolidation frenzy. I hope people see this film and think about what is at stake and then take some action.

Thanks Michel!

Sent by Tanya Radford | 3:19 PM | 7-7-2008

to Kevin--thanks for the bouquets! to Theresa-- no comment!

Sent by Michel Martin, host, TMM | 11:42 PM | 7-7-2008

Thank you for FINALLY pointing out we do not need to always talk about the violence in Tijuana, or other cities for that matter. I am glad you did not ask that question. One thing that disappoints me about the NPR news coverage in San Diego about Tijuana is that it solely talks about the violence problems. Of course they are important, but how is it that interesting occurences in the Arts and other events are ignored most of the time? Why not mention the wonderful international book fair? The exposition on new artists from Latin America? The wonderful dinner culture?

Even though the violence problems at the moment are alarming, I have not abandoned the city and still am interested in these great events held year round.

Sent by LS | 2:28 PM | 7-15-2008