Immigrant Stories: A crazy dream of radio work became reality

Intro: This is a transcript of Walter Gallacher interviewing Crystal Mariscal for his Immigrant Stories.

Mariscal: I was born in California, and I grew up in Zacatecas, Mexico. When I was around 16 years old, I moved back to the United States.

When I was growing up in Mexico, my mom and my dad had a big family table. I spent a lot of time there playing and listening to the radio. For me, radio was a really powerful thing. It was my communication resource. For me everything came from that little magic box.

Gallacher: What kind of programs did you listen to?

Mariscal: Story times. Music. And of course, at night there were the scary stories of witches and ghosts. I used to love that, so I spent the night hiding in my room, listening to the radio without my mom knowing what I was doing. Radio was my partner in crime, a way for me to escape from my world.

Gallacher: What were you trying to escape?

Mariscal: It was my father’s toxic relationship with my mother. I was “daddy’s little girl.” He was always really nice to me, but he was really abusive to my mom. So any time I heard him start yelling, I escaped into my radio and a whole different world. It was there that I could have different voices, make jokes, talk about the news and even sing.

Gallacher: So radio has been in your blood since you were a little girl.

Mariscal: Yes, I wish everybody could understand the excitement that I feel about radio. I always dreamt of being part of it. I used to tell people, “One day, my voice is going to be on the radio.” They all thought I was crazy.

Gallacher: You’re a dreamer. You’re not crazy.

Mariscal: Yeah. I’m a dreamer. I have crazy dreams. My daughter, the other day, said, “You know, mom, every time that you have something in your mind, you do it.”

Gallacher: Where do you think that comes from?

Mariscal: Survival. You have to survive. You need to keep swimming. You need to keep going. You have no other choice. There’s a song that I love that says, “You have to make it to make it.” I had to make it to make it. When I was 13 I was married and pregnant with my first child.

Gallacher: 13?

Mariscal: Yes. When I was 14, I had my first daughter. She was my last doll. When I was 16, I was pregnant with my second daughter. That’s when we moved from Mexico to Glenwood Springs.

We lived in a motel for I don’t know how many months. I was going through a lot of depression. I was an American citizen, but I had the same fears that a lot of immigrants have. I had no skills and I couldn’t speak English. I was afraid of the police. It was stressful, and that added to my depression.

Over the next four years, we moved around, Steamboat and then Rifle, here and there. My husband became abusive and controlling. He kept me home a lot and wouldn’t let me work. I had two more kids, two boys.

Gallacher: By then you must have felt pretty stuck. You’ve got four kids. He’s in control. How do you escape that kind of thing with four kids?

Mariscal: Eventually there’s one day that you have to survive. You have to think about your kids. I remember that day. I was crying because of what my husband had just done to me, and my daughter, who was 3 at the time, came to me and said, “Mom, stop crying. We don’t cry. We are winners. Don’t give up.”

So that day I started making a plan to escape and, by the time I was 21, I was a single mom with four kids and less than 40 bucks in my pocket, living in a shelter.

Gallacher: You’ve come a long way in the last 11 years. Tell me about the steps you took to work yourself out of poverty.

Mariscal: I moved to Rifle and started working in Aspen cleaning hotels. That was for a season. Later I began taking classes at CMC and started working in the school cafeteria. Then I got a job as a preschool teacher, and I became a family advocate working with families and helping them find the services that they need.

Gallacher: You mentioned, earlier, that you have also worked as a mechanic and a tree planter.

Mariscal: Yes. I alternated between planting trees and cleaning houses. I’ve done just about everything.

Gallacher: You talked earlier about your love of radio. How did you rekindle that fire?

Mariscal: The fire has always been there. And one day, I got the courage to call Tri-Color, the valley’s Spanish language radio station. I talked to the station manager, Samuel Bernal. I told him about my idea to convene and broadcast a legal forum with valley residents and all the agencies in the valley that assist the Latino community. I told him I wanted to invite the Mexican consulate.

Samuel was very kind. He listened to my ideas and thanked me for my interest. I told him I would love to work in radio. He said he would call me if any jobs opened up. So every three months or so I would call him just to see if anything had changed.

And finally one day, he called me and told me he had a job for me, if I was still interested. I started working with Samuel, and that was life changing. I started organizing the legal forum inviting attorneys, police officers, people from the motor vehicle department and the Mexican Consulate.

Gallacher: The legal forum was basically a chance for Latinos to learn what their rights and responsibilities were in the United States with the Mexican Consulate sitting there and giving advice.

Mariscal: Yes, lots of people came and it was on Tri-Color radio. It was a great event, and later in 2016 the station won an award of excellence from the Colorado Broadcasters Association for it. That year, we won two or three. Now we have around nine.

Gallacher: In 2017, your station won a Colorado Broadcasters Award for your Community Service Campaign, your regular newscast, your Public Service Announcement and Public Affair’s Program. And you topped it off with the Radio Station of the Year award. Wow!

This is that little girl who listened to her plastic radio.

Mariscal: Yeah. I always dreamed of being on the radio but I never dreamed of winning statewide awards. To be recognized by the Colorado Broadcasters Association was huge.

I wanted to work there for a long time but they were having budget problems, and I lost my job. That was a really tough situation because, as a single mom at that point, that was my only job. I used to have always two jobs. In that moment, I was just focused on that job. I was asking myself, “What are you going to do now?”

I started doing advertising for some real estate companies. I learned how to do advertising, and it took me about four months to start having a job. I made my own company as a contractor and consultant.

Gallacher: What did you call yourself?

Mariscal: Latino Community Expert, because I am. I got a contract with Mesa County doing community outreach work with families in Clifton.

Gallacher: How did you end up on the New Castle Town Council?

Mariscal: Someone was stepping down, and I submitted my name, and the other Council members voted me on.

I’ve always been involved in New Castle in different ways. I think it’s the best town ever. It’s a place that I can finally call home, a place where I want my kids to grow up.

Gallacher: For all that you have been through, you still have a lot of faith in yourself even though you were often told you should stay at home and keep your head down.

Mariscal: I don’t think it is faith in myself. I think it is faith in God. I know that God has a lot of things for me.

Gallacher: There are a lot of people who have strong faith, but they’re not active. They aren’t as confident of themselves as you are.

Mariscal: I don’t think I’m confident. I try not to overthink things. If I think it too much, I’m not going to do it. I have to do it.

I know that if I do something, I’m going to keep going. I’m not going to give up. That’s me. I’m going to force myself to learn something. I need to kick my own butt to do it because it’s really easy to get comfortable and complain in my house.

Gallacher: What you did next makes your point. You decided to start your own morning talk show on KDNK radio, “Chatting with Crystal” (Charlando con Crystal).

Mariscal: Yes, it was on 5 to 6 in the morning, Wednesdays and Fridays. In 2018, we won the best morning talk show in the Colorado Broadcasters Association.

You know I never thought that I would be at this moment in my life. When I was going through depression, living in a shelter and if someone had told me that, one day, I was going to have my own business, be on town council, win awards for my work in radio and see my kids happy and doing well in school I would have thought I was just dreaming.

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