Thoughts on border culture, community, and diverse storytelling: Meet the season 3 ‘Darkness’ host

My name is Jackie Ibarra, and I’m the host of season 3 of “Darkness.”

It’s a true crime podcast about the life and death of Mark Kilroy, a University of Texas pre-med student with a bright future. In 1989, Mark took a trip down to South Padre Island to celebrate the end of midterms and spring break with his friends. In South Texas, it wasn’t uncommon for students to head down to Brownsville so that they could cross over into Matamoros, Mexico, to keep the party going. But after a night of drinks and bar-hopping, Mark never returned. His family searched for him for over a month before investigators found his body — and about 14 others on a ranch hidden in the outskirts of Matamoros. This new podcast looks back at what really happened in Rancho Santa Elena. 

Yes, this is a true crime podcast and it’s going to be everything you think of when you hear about true crime. But it’s also a story about border culture, the communities surrounding it, and the hearts of people who look and sound just like me.  

I’m from San Antonio, and I grew up crossing the border to visit my grandma (and for some less fun things, like getting dental work). For me, my trips to Mexico were full of fond memories of drinking soda (because Mexico’s the only place my mom would let me drink it), salivating at the smell of street tacos, or guessing how tall the mountains were off in the distance. 

It’s because I am someone who spent years of her life going to Mexico that I know how to describe and that I know it’s so much more than the misconceptions people have about it. Mexico and the border isn’t something that’s either black or white — or even gray, for that matter. It’s gotten more nuanced and more complicated, and that’s OK. 

I think that’s what’s helped me report this story. 

I’ve been able to connect with people by swapping stories and childhood memories of the border or Mexico. I’ve been able to understand things that might take some more explaining for someone else, but I’ve also been able to see the bigger picture of stories like these and ask a different set of questions. 

For me, being the host of this podcast goes beyond just being able to pronounce words in Spanish (or to be able to roll the r’s in my last name). It’s also about being able to contextualize this story and explain the different facets that deserve more detail. It’s been a heartwarming experience being able to host this podcast and delve into the complexities of the border and the beauty of places like Mexico.

I think that’s why it’s so important for not only Hispanic Heritage Month, but every month, that we continue to seek out diverse storytellers. 

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