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Professor's Podcast Unites Music With Latin American History

By Samantha Boden

History is everywhere, and if you look closely enough, aspects of it can be found in the most unlikely places.  

This is a theme that surfaces throughout history professor Citlali Sosa-Riddell’s life — from diving into historical aspects of Marvel movies to filling her reading list with mystery novels that take place in the past.  

It is Sosa-Riddell’s passion for history that brought her to Cal State San Marcos this fall.  

Choosing a career pathway can be intimidating for any young adult trying to map out their life. There is such a wide variety of fields and factors to consider. When it came time for Sosa-Riddell to make her big decision, she had one condition: 

“I just couldn’t imagine being in a small office where there’s not a lot of people to talk to or an outlet for my individuality,” Sosa-Riddell said. “I knew I needed to follow my interests, and it led to me following in my mom’s footsteps.”  

Sosa-Riddell’s mother was a professor at UC Davis. Growing up in academia, Sosa-Riddell saw firsthand the dynamic nature of teaching. The idea of engaging with students in the classroom and leading large-scale creative projects felt like a thrill to her.  

After years of hard work, Sosa-Riddell earned her Ph.D. in American history from UCLA and is now an experienced Latinx and Latin American history professor. She is living out her teaching aspirations and continues to find new ways to think outside the box when approaching historical analysis. 

Her current passion project is co-hosting a podcast with longtime friend Jorge Leal, an assistant professor of history at UC Riverside. “The Discursive Power of Rock en Español and the Desire for Democracy” is a podcast that traces past social movements in Latin America. Sosa-Riddell’s key focus is examining the role that Spanish rock music has played in challenging dictatorships and advocating for the rights of immigrants. 

Sosa-Riddell recently got to interview one of her student’s aunts. Her interviewee lived in a country under a dictatorship. Once the dictatorship was lifted, she reminisced on how people were terrified but also filled with excitement as some handed out their mixtapes and flyers for band performances to celebrate the end of tyranny. 

“I think her story really struck me because she connected music to that joy of freedom,” Sosa-Riddell said. “Usually when we think about dictatorships, we only think about the mundane horribleness and the trauma. I found her connection to be really interesting, and I think that’s why I wanted to find a way to do something that would be more joyful for listeners to think about: How do people fight back? I like that about music.” 

Sosa-Riddell was in college when Spanish rock music heavily came onto the scene. It was not exactly love at first listen.  

“I was amazed by this new sound, but I was also partially on the team of dismissing it as lame,” she said. “Everybody else was really into it and talking about it. I remember my friend pointing out how it feels like the kids born in the United States are starting to view immigrants and Mexican Americans in a new way — as cool. It felt like an interesting shift with Americans looking to Latin America for music instead of vice versa.”   

Nowadays, Sosa-Riddell finds herself listening to a variety of musical genres. She loves anything she can sing along to, whether that be reggaeton, her favorite Latin alternative group Café Tacvba or upbeat pop musicians such as Taylor Swift and Olivia Rodrigo.  

With a mix of modern and traditional, Sosa-Riddell’s podcast covers it all. And she is not just talking about music. Sosa-Riddell is digging even deeper and exploring the iconic venues of band performances, clothing styles and the gender roles and expectations surrounding fans of the Spanish rock genre. By fusing her interests of Spanish music and Latin American history, she is hoping to generate a unique and educational dialogue for her audience.  

Sosa-Riddell and Leal released the first season of their podcast last summer. It is continuing to take off, having received over 2,000 downloads.  

These co-host historians are showing no signs of slowing down. They are working on Season 2 and expect it to be complete this spring.  

The podcast is available on Apple Music and Spotify.   

“I am not a musicologist or anything,” Sosa-Riddell said. “But I have learned so much about music through recording and researching for this podcast, and I am very excited for our next season.”   

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Eric Breier, Public Affairs Specialist

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