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Kalamazoo resident spreads empathy with new podcast telling immigrant stories

Posted at 10:01 PM, Jan 21, 2020
and last updated 2020-01-21 22:01:35-05

KALAMAZOO  — Edwin Basurto is excited about storytelling.

Basurto said he’s traveling to Tennessee soon to talk to a man from Iraq who immigrated to Kalamazoo in the 1970s, studied at Western Michigan University, and later became a professor. However, when he wanted to return home, he couldn’t because the United States was at war with Iraq.

“If he would’ve gone, he would’ve thrown his studies away,” Basurto said during an interview with FOX 17. “He would’ve been drafted and who knows if he would’ve lived through that.”

Basurto is eager to share the man’s story, he said. He’s planning to share that one and other immigrants stories on his new podcast Esperanza, which means hope in Spanish.

It debuted Friday January 17 and his goal is spread empathy one interview at a time, he said.

“We’re talking about culture, what it’s like to be in America and what it’s like to be where we’re from,” Basurto said. “But why America is a little and somewhat better and why we chose to settle here.”

So far, he’s interviewed a man from Egypt, which was featured on the debut episode. Next he’s got two other interviews, one with a woman from Germany and another with a person from Nigeria.

“It’s real, uncut, and raw,” Basurto said about the interviews. “I don’t edit it. I only make it sound better. I don’t edit the stories. They are as they come.”

Basurto said their stories are similar to his own. He and his family immigrated to the United States from Mexico when he was just 2-years-old. However, their journey was full of ‘ups and downs’ because of domestic violence, he said.

“[My father] was deported and it was probably the best thing that happened to me and my family because he was abusive,” Basurto said. “And he was no good for my family.”

After that, he and his mother and siblings became homeless. They slept on other people’s floors for about two years before the YWCA stepped in to help them, he said.

“We went to speak to them and they did everything, including getting us a lawyer for our citizenship,” said Basurto, who’s family is now permanent residents on their way to becoming citizens. “So they did more than they should’ve. I am standing in front of you because of YWCA.”

Since then, Basurto learned how to put a podcast together, spending $3,000 on equipment and watching over 500 hours of tutorials on YouTube. Now, episode one can be found on iTunes, Google and Spotify. And, he ultimately hopes Esperanza will inspire listeners to connect with the people around them.

“That’s why I’m making this podcast. We have more in common. We have more things to talk about,” Basurto said. “Next time you sit next to someone who’s not from where you’re from, looks completely different, you’re not scared to say ‘Hey, how are you doing? Where are you from?’”