Stories about walls and borders, and what happens when – instead of people crossing the border – the border crosses the people.
Act 1: Wrong Side of the Fence
Pamela Taylor technically lives in the U.S. But somehow, her house is on the Mexican side of the border wall.
Act 2: The Chamizal
Ever since Texas became a state, the Rio Grande has been the official border between the US and Mexico. The problem is, rivers can move – and that’s exactly what happened in 1864. Torrential rains caused the river to jump its banks and go south. All of a sudden, the border was in a different place… and that was a problem.
Featuring the song, “Chamizal Blues” by Bob Burns and the Tekewoods.
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We first met Thembi when she was 19 and living in one of the largest townships in South Africa. We were struck by her candor, sense of humor and her courage. She was willing to speak out about having AIDS at a time when very few South Africans were willing to. Thembi carried a tape recorder from 2004 to 2005 to document her life. In this episode, we revisit Thembi’s diary.
Bonus Episode: Hear the World Differently
There’s an old saying that “sound is like touch from a distance.” We think it’s a perfect metaphor for what we at Radio Diaries — and all the shows at Radiotopia — try to do. We want to help you hear the world differently.
We’re in the middle of our annual fundraiser where we ask you, our listeners, to support the network that makes this show possible. Our goal is to reach 25,000 donors. Every donation counts, no matter the size. So give what you can and help us get one step closer. There’s some great new swag and opportunities to meet your favorite producers. Including a one-on-one chat with Joe Richman and the rest of the Radio Diaries team.
Go to to donate. And thank you.
A Guitar, A Cello, and the Day that Changed Music
November 23, 1936 was a good day for recorded music. Two men – an ocean apart – sat before a microphone and began to play. One was a cello prodigy who had performed for the Queen of Spain; the other played guitar and was a regular in the juke joints of the Mississippi Delta.
But on this day 75 years ago, Pablo Casals and Robert Johnson both made recordings that would change music history.
The Song That Crossed Party Lines
Our country is so politically polarized these days, it’s hard to remember a time when Republicans and Democrats could agree on anything at all.
In today’s episode, we’re going back almost 80 years, to another extremely polarized moment in American history. It was 1940, and the U.S. was deeply divided about engaging in World War II. Franklin Roosevelt was running for his third term, facing a Republican challenger, Wendell Wilkie. But that election season, the Republican Party, The Democrats, and even the Communist Party managed to agree on one thing:
A song. It was called “Ballad for Americans.”