ROBERT GARCIA, HOST:
Today's podcast may contain some explicit language. You're warned.
ANA NAVARRO: There's a neighborhood in Miami called Little Managua. I'll go and I'll buy all the Nicaraguan goodies, and I'll, you know - look, man, it's noon. We are taping this thing at noon. Can we not talk about food right now?
ADRIAN BARTOS, HOST:
I haven't had breakfast. My stomach is literally...
NAVARRO: You look like you haven't had breakfast ever.
NAVARRO: I mean...
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)
BARTOS: Hey, everybody, this is Stretch Armstrong.
GARCIA: And I'm Bobbito Garcia aka Kool Bob Love.
BARTOS: Welcome to Stretch & Bobbito - sorry - WHAT'S GOOD WITH STRETCH & BOBBITO, your source for untold stories and uncovered truths from movers and shakers around the moondo (ph). The voice you just heard is that of CNN correspondent Ana Navarro. Ana is a Republican strategist. And while we might not always agree with our guests, we always hear them out. We're going to talk to her about how her background has influenced her personal politics and how she connects with her homeland, Nicaragua.
BARTOS: (Speaking Spanish).
GARCIA: Que, que.
BARTOS: How do you connect with your homeland?
GARCIA: (Speaking Spanish).
GARCIA: Well, it's an interesting question because as a youth not born in Puerto Rico where both my parents were, I felt very disconnected. And not growing up speaking Spanish and being a Nuyorican, I really traveled a dubious path on trying to sort of confirm my identity as a Puerto Rican. I had the great, great honor of playing professionally for Los Capitanes de Arecibo, which was one of the franchises there. And I think when I was there and I was recognized as one of the top 100 ballplayers in the world who were of Puerto Rican descent, that really affirmed a lot for me.
And I think, you know, I had never felt as Puerto Rican as that, and it was kind of like a badge of honor. It was like, yo, I'm playing pro ball. I'm representing the island. I'm representing an entire city on my chest every time we play. And then moving forward in the last 10 years, I taught myself, Stretch, how to speak Spanish on my own.
BARTOS: Beautiful. I remember you telling me how you were really uncomfortable speaking Spanish in public. And, you know, we went down to Bogota, Colombia.
GARCIA: Oh, yeah (laughter).
BARTOS: You were getting the crowd going speaking Spanish lovely, like...
BARTOS: ...With total confidence and bravado. And it was really great to watch, man. I'm proud of you.
GARCIA: Thank you. Well, that's all - you know, 'cause when you're on a mic at a party, you just have to do, like, one sentence at a time, so...
BARTOS: Aplausos, aplausos, aplausos.
BARTOS: We're going to take a quick break. We'll be back to talk with Ana about her political commentary...
BARTOS: ...And what it's like to be a Latina in the limelight.
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)
GARCIA: Our guest today has one of the most unexpected voices in the GOP. She's Latino, an immigrant, and she can't help but to keep it 100 all day, every day, even if that means being a vocal critic of the president and her own party. She's been a strategist for Republicans for years. Navarro served as an adviser to Jon McCain's 2008 presidential campaign and as an adviser to John Huntsman in 2012. She's also been a teacher at Harvard University, was a special adviser to the government of Nicaragua, and today, she's a political commentator on CNN. That's a whole lot right there.
NAVARRO: Well, let me correct you there. I wasn't a teacher at Harvard. I was a fellow. That means I'm - I mean, I'm only smart to be there for one semester.
BARTOS: So inevitably we're going to talk about politics, but let's just talk about you for a moment. Since you were 8 years old, you've called Miami your home. And you know some pretty cool people in Miami. We hear that you're friends with Emilio and Gloria Estefan. Is that true? And how did you get to know them?
NAVARRO: I really don't remember how I got to know them, but they are very good friends, and I'm very proud of them. They are - Emilio is an amazing entrepreneur, but - and so successful, so famous, have done so many things and yet the most grounded, accessible human beings you can imagine. I'll text her while I'm here, tell her I'm here talking about her. It's interesting. She just got told she's going to be receiving a Kennedy award, Kennedy Center award, and she's going to be using the opportunity, she said, to teach Donald Trump a thing or two about immigration.
GARCIA: So, Ana, you moved to the United States in 2000 - I'm sorry. You moved to the United States when you were 8 years old. I was thinking about my mom...
NAVARRO: Yes, yes, that was in 2000.
GARCIA: My mom moved to the United States when she was 8 years old as well.
NAVARRO: From where?
GARCIA: From Puerto Rico. And she was a jibara, grew up on a farm, you know, milked cows and all that.
BARTOS: That's a term I don't know.
GARCIA: A jibara is, you know, someone who doesn't grow up in a city.
GARCIA: Yeah. And - but she moved to New York, and she retained some of what she had growing up, but she lost a lot of it. I'm wondering what were the special qualities of Nicaragua that when you arrived in the U.S. really early on that you want to hold on to?
NAVARRO: You know, I was only 8 years old, right, so I wasn't in a mind frame to be thinking about what am I holding on to or not. I grew up in a very Nicaraguan family, a very Nicaraguan household where we ate Nicaraguan, where we talked in Spanish, where - this was during the civil war in Nicaragua. It was the decade of the '80s, Ronald Reagan, the Contras, the freedom fighters. My father was a freedom fighter. So the politics of Nicaragua and all of that struggle was very much part of my daily life at home.
I also live in Miami, which is a community where there is constantly an influx of new immigrants, a lot of us fleeing political distress, whether it's the Cubans who came in 1960s or it's, you know, the Nicaraguans in the '80s or the Haitians or the Venezuelans now, Argentines, Colombians. You know, whenever the shit hits the fan in Latin America, people head to Miami because we do Latin food really well there. We do Latin music really well there, and we drive really bad there, so people feel very much at home.
NAVARRO: And because we open up doors for each other. And so, you know, Miami is one of these places where diversity is in our blood, where, you know, if you want to go have a Nicaraguan breakfast, a Cuban lunch and an American diner dinner, you do. And so I feel like I was able to not only hold on to the Nicaraguan culture but also assimilate into the American culture while at the same time embracing all of these other cultures that are part of Miami.
People say to me all the time, when did you know that you had fully become an American? And I say, the day I realized I loved peanut butter. Peanut butter, you know, there is no such thing as peanut butter outside of the - America. It's one of these things where - and I remember when I first came to the United States, I was like, you've got to be kidding me. What is this gooey thing that sticks to your mouth, tastes terrible?
NAVARRO: And are they really putting it in between two pieces of white bread with jelly? I mean, the entire thing was just so horrifying to my esthetics, my palate, everything. And now, you know, I mean, it's a comfort food. I eat it all - you know, with a spoon out of a jar in the middle of the night when I'm, you know, when I think we might be going into nuclear war.
BARTOS: So I read that when you got to Miami, it was never your family's plan to stay in Miami. There was always this idea that when things get right back at home to return. At what point did you realize that that was not what was going to happen and you were going to indeed be an American?
NAVARRO: Well, you know, I think that happens to all political exiles. I think you - when you flee political turmoil, you always think that you're going to go back home, and my parents actually did after - my parents went back to Nicaragua. There was a change in the government in 1990, and my parents went back. There was an election, a democratic election. The Sandinistas, the left-wing dictators, lost. And my parents went back immediately within months.
I was graduating from high school. I was going to college, and at some point, you know, during that time in college then law school I realized my life is here. My work is here. My life is here. My interests are here, and you know - and this is where I want to be. This is - this is home. So my parents and a lot of my family did go back and live there, and I'm in Miami.
GARCIA: In the midst of that, right, what ties you back to Nicaragua?
NAVARRO: Well, I go back often to visit family. I have - you know, we have properties. We have farmland. We have businesses that have been in the family for generations, so they mean something, you know, beyond just the present. You know, it's also part of my past. My brother, who I adored, is buried there.
So it's always going to - you know, so for me, that's such a significant part of my being. What ties me back to Nicaragua? There's a - there's an area - there's a neighborhood in Miami called Little Managua, which is the capital of Nicaragua. It's called Managua, and there's - it's a place called Little Managua. And I'll go and I'll buy all the Nicaraguan goodies and I'll, you know, stock up.
GARCIA: What are they?
NAVARRO: You know, meat, churrasco with chimichurri, plantains, and then, you know, my favorite thing, the little coconut candies. I mean, look, man, it's noon. We are taping this thing at noon. Can we not talk about food right now?
BARTOS: I haven't had breakfast. My stomach is literally...
NAVARRO: You look like you haven't had breakfast ever.
NAVARRO: I mean, do you all know how skinny this man is?
GARCIA: He's vegan. Leave him alone.
NAVARRO: I don't even know what vegan is.
NAVARRO: Like, I know Bill Clinton is that, so...
BARTOS: Stevie Wonder is.
NAVARRO: If it involves quinoa or kale, I'm not into it.
BARTOS: Guilty, guilty as charged.
BARTOS: Oh, man. So you've said in other interviews that from a very young age you wanted to be a Republican, but was there a particular moment growing up when you said to yourself I want to be in politics?
NAVARRO: I wanted to be a Republican because my father was in the Contras, a freedom fighter, in Costa Rica on the border with Nicaragua. And I remember the moment at a State of the Union when Ronald Reagan was giving the State of the Union, and he was giving support to the freedom fighters and he said, I am a freedom fighter, too. And so that kind of sealed the deal for me at that time.
Was there a moment when I said I wanted to be in politics? I was always in politics as a child, you know, volunteering at stuff, going to political marches because we did that then, you know? And I mean, in Miami, we always have a reason to March, which is amazing because it's 100 degrees and 100-degree humidity but yet, you know, I mean, we - back then, we would march at the drop of a pin.
And so it just, you know, it was - I don't think there was an aha moment. I think it was organic, and it was part of - look, when you - when you flee communism, you realize you cannot take democracy for granted, and you realize the value of being engaged and trying to make a difference. So I lived through a civil war when I was 6, 7 years old. I fled communism when I was 8 years old. I grew up in a community that is full of other exiles who also fled political turmoil and communism. Being a bystander for me is not an option.
BARTOS: Well, that answers the next question.
GARCIA: (Laughter) That answers, like, five questions.
GARCIA: So, Ana, you've been a commentator on CNN and CNN Espanol. When you're switching to either language or either platform, what's your shift when you go between the two?
NAVARRO: I don't know. I don't think it's a - I don't think it's a cognizant thing. I don't think I'm conscious of it. I think for me it's a seamless translation, a seamless transition. You know, I grew up in Miami. Our official language is Spanglish.
NAVARRO: So I - it's just not something I think about consciously. It just - it just comes naturally. (Speaking Spanish).
BARTOS: In a BuzzFeed profile, you said, quote, "people who like me would tweet about my sexy Latina accent. People who hated me would tweet about my irritating Mexican accent. Hell, I didn't even know I had an accent. Everybody in Miami talks like me." So how tricky is it to handle people's expectations of you as a Latino who is so visible?
NAVARRO: Oh, I don't care. Look, at some point, you got to stop caring about people's expectations and care only about your expectations of yourself. Social media can be very cruel. And so you've got two choices. You either learn to have it roll off your back or, you know, you crawl under your bed and suck your thumb for the rest of your life. To me, it just - I mean, I just - it doesn't get to me at all.
One of the good things about having more and more followers is that at some point you can't keep up with it, so you're not reading all of the venom. There comes a moment, like this aha moment, where you consciously turn it off, turn the switch off, and you stop caring. I am basically in that mode right now. I mean, you know, you could hurl any insult at me, and I'd be like, next. Meh, I'm bored.
NAVARRO: What else? I mean, also there is really nothing new that I can be told that I haven't already been told a million times in different languages.
GARCIA: But on the flip side, though, do you get numb to the love? Because, I mean, there's all these overwhelming, you know, man, like, I love what you do. You represent us and - or does every time that you read it you feel like, yeah, I'm doing something right?
NAVARRO: You know, I don't get numb to the support and the love. It means a lot to me. The other day something that I loved happened. I was scrolling through responses. When I'm on planes on long flights, you know, I sometimes do that. And there was - I had taken a picture with a guy at the airport who had asked for a picture. He posted it.
I reposted it and then this guy wrote, you know - and it said, the goal in my life was to get my 81-year-old mom to meet Ana Navarro. I set up a Twitter feed for her just so she could follow her. So I - you know, I contacted him, asked for his mom's number. And now, you know, Margene from Lubbock, Texas, and I are new best friends.
GARCIA: Get out.
NAVARRO: Call her up - of course, now - you know, and then I tweeted about Margene, who had never sent out a tweet. Now Margene is famous, has got thousands of followers.
NAVARRO: And every follower of mine wants me to call their elderly parent who, you know, lives alone with their cats.
NAVARRO: But it's - it was, like, the most, you know, terrific thing.
GARCIA: No, that's darling. Yeah, that's super affectionate.
NAVARRO: So it's - look, having a platform gives you the ability to just sometimes, with random acts of kindness, just, you know - things that are maybe, you know - take just a few minutes, make somebody happy and make a difference in people's lives. I get tweeted all of the time about, you know, somebody who might be wanting to raise awareness for an illness, raise awareness for an injustice. And so it's a great privilege. It's a great privilege that I'm very lucky to have.
GARCIA: Sure. So with social media, you have the opportunity to, like, step back, shut it off, respond when you want, ignore the trolls. But when you're live on television with other commentators and men are raising their voice at you, and you are defending Latinos, you're defending women, you're defending others in the media...
NAVARRO: Honey, I can out-shout anybody. No man - let me just tell you.
BARTOS: His questions aren't working.
NAVARRO: I mean, what are you talking about, OK? I'm a - what are - where are you going with this question?
BARTOS: Who's - superwoman here...
NAVARRO: I'm a Latina from Miami. I pity you if you think you're going out-shout me.
BARTOS: So you have a no-holds-barred style of commentary, and you don't mince your words. You don't pull your punches. What do you do to prepare for the shows that you're on when you're commentating?
NAVARRO: You know, I really don't think about what I'm going to say. What I do is I read a lot. I read a lot of, you know, the news of the day. And really, it requires being on top of everything because right now, news is a 24/7 cycle. And God knows Donald Trump gives you breaking news, like, on a, you know, daily, hour-by-hour basis. And so, you know, it's really about being informed. For me, my preparation is to be informed. It's not a - you know, I don't - some people come in with notes, and they know what they're going to say. I - you know, I - look at the way I came in here, you know? I'm on my iPad multitasking because there's only so much attention I can pay to you guys.
NAVARRO: And, you know, that's basically what I do.
GARCIA: So you've said that the partisan divide is one of the biggest issues that we have in the country today. You're a Republican. What do you do or what media do you consume to get out of your own bubble?
NAVARRO: I try to consume nonpartisan media. In other words, I don't do Fox News, or I don't do Breitbart. And I don't do, you know, on the left, HuffPost, or, you know, or whatever. I try to consume journalistic, fact-based, less-opinion-based media. So, you know, I will read The Washington Post, and I'll read The New York Times, and I'll read The Miami Herald, and I'll read Politico. I'll read cnn.com. I try to, you know - I try to stick to that. Every...
GARCIA: You didn't say NPR.
NAVARRO: You know, I don't listen to radio that much, to tell you the truth. I am a - when I'm in the car, I'm, like - I'm either listening to salsa or country. That's another - that's also when I knew I had assimilated fully as an American - when I knew who Johnny Cash was and can sing every lyric to every song of his.
GARCIA: He loves peanut butter.
NAVARRO: And so I try to do that. But I do think that one of the problems that we face in America today is this polarization where people too often only listen to, watch, read what they agree with, hang out with people that they agree with, that look like them, that sound like them, that think like them. And then I think we've got to get out of our comfort zone if we are ever going to beat this cancer in our society right now of living in a red or blue world. You're missing the real colors in the world.
For me, one of the great things about my job and what I get to do is that I get to be with people that have completely different experiences, different thought processes, different ideologies, different - you know, but as long as you share values as human beings, who cares if you are, you know - if you are pro-science or anti-science. Who cares if you are, you know - if you want to be in pro-trade or be anti-trade pact. I mean, you just - you know, you got to focus on the bigger things. And you'll learn how to debate civilly, and you'll learn how to disagree civilly. I mean, life would be so boring if I was surrounded by people who all thought like me.
GARCIA: Ok, yeah, for sure.
All right, up next is the Impression Session.
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)
BARTOS: It's time for the Impression Session.
GARCIA: No, it's actually time for Ana to check her Twitter.
BARTOS: She's looking up Impression Session.
BARTOS: What does that mean?
GARCIA: Well, Ana, if we could have your attention.
BARTOS: What is the Impression Session?
GARCIA: Here's how it works. We're going to play you each a song. We're not going to tell you what it is. And we just ask that you listen to it just for a few minutes and just let it seep into your soul, digest it, listen to the lyrics, listen to the music. Whatever it brings out of you, that's what we want to hear - cool?
NAVARRO: You want me to do what?
GARCIA: We want you to listen to the song.
BARTOS: We just want you to react to music.
NAVARRO: Oh, geez.
BARTOS: That's all.
NAVARRO: OK, go ahead.
GARCIA: You want to play the first one? I'll play the first one.
BARTOS: This is off vinyl, Ana. Look at that. When was the last time you saw that happen?
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "NO NO NO")
BOOGALOO ASSASSINS: (Singing) No, no, no, you don't love me and I know now.
GARCIA: Well, I got her off of Twitter. It worked.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "NO NO NO")
BOOGALOO ASSASSINS: (Singing) No, no, no.
GARCIA: She's back on Instagram.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "NO NO NO")
BOOGALOO ASSASSINS: (Singing) You don't love me and I know now.
NAVARRO: Nice Latin background music.
GARCIA: Did it - did it make you feel...
NAVARRO: Did it stir my soul? Did it make me feel mushy inside? No.
GARCIA: No. Did it compel you to dance?
GARCIA: Would you dance to that?
NAVARRO: In the studio?
BARTOS: No, no, no.
GARCIA: That was the Boogaloo Assassins. They're a group from LA. The song is "No No No." It was originally recorded by Dawn Penn, a Jamaican artist, and was an anthem in reggae. Ana, this is their sort of Boogaloo take on it, which is phenomenal to see live. It's - anytime we DJ and this is played, it's a fire burning on the dance floor.
NAVARRO: So where are they - where is the group from?
GARCIA: They're from Los Angeles. They're a mix of...
NAVARRO: But are they of - what Latin descent are they? Because that sounds almost Caribbean.
GARCIA: Well, it's - they're multiethnic, multinational, so they have African-Americans, they have Afro-Mexicans, Afro-Latinos, Afro-Caribbeans. I think there's a couple Boricuas in there, too. But...
NAVARRO: Do they have a place where they usually play in LA?
GARCIA: We'll find out for you, Ana, and maybe we could all hang out.
NAVARRO: All right.
GARCIA: Is that cool?
BARTOS: We'll bring the Sancerre.
NAVARRO: Play U2 or something that I might recognize, please. Play Gloria Estefan, Willy Chirino, U2, Andrea Bocelli, Johnny Cash. I got no idea what you guys are throwing at me.
GARCIA: Go for it, Stretch.
BARTOS: All right. Hit it.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "THROW THAT 'D'")
2 LIVE CREW: (Singing) Listen up, y'all, 'cause this is it. Forget that old dance and throw that D. Let's dance. Let's - let's - let's dance. Let's - let's dance. Let's dance. Let's - let's dance. There's a brand-new dance and it's coming your way. It was started in Miami by the ghetto DJs. See, some call it nasty, but that's not true. It's just an oldie dance that you can't do.
BARTOS: (Laughter) OK. I think that's enough. Bob and I were talking earlier about...
NAVARRO: I told you I'm pop-culture challenged.
BARTOS: No, that's the 2 Live Crew, so that's Miami.
NAVARRO: No, I heard the word Miami in there.
BARTOS: But you know who the 2 Live Crew are, right?
NAVARRO: Yes. Now, you don't understand how pop-culture challenged I am. I'm telling you my - I'm constantly told, you know, to go redecorate the rock I live under.
BARTOS: But, I mean, I picked that song because that was, you know, they were, like, the seminal Miami-based ambassadors of the '80s. And obviously they wanted to be very controversial. I think there was a case that they were involved in that may have gone all the way up to the Supreme Court.
NAVARRO: I think so - freedom of expression case.
BARTOS: And we were thinking maybe at least you had friends that were, you know, dating the 2 Live Crew back in the '80s (laughter).
NAVARRO: Are we done with this now?
GARCIA: We're done. You can, like, destroy as many tweets as you want. Ana, thank you so much for being a part of our show.
NAVARRO: Thank you.
BARTOS: Yeah, thanks for coming, appreciate it.
GARCIA: It was great conversation.
BARTOS: That's it for us. This podcast was produced by Sami Yenigun, Jessica Diaz-Hurtado and Micaela Rodriguez. Our editors are Steve Nelson and N'Jeri Eaton, and our executive producer is Abby O'Neill.
GARCIA: Special thanks to our VP of programming, Anya Grundmann.
BARTOS: If you liked this show, you should listen to our other interviews with Stevie Wonder and Chance the Rapper. Listen on Apple podcasts, NPR One or wherever you get your podcasts.
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