On Oct. 9, 2022, a secret recording of a private conversation between some of Los Angeles’s most powerful political figures – including Nury Martinez, then-President of the LA City Council and the first Latina to reach that post – brought to light some of the most painful issues faced and often ignored within Latino communities, including anti-Black sentiment, colorism and outright racism.
For the first time in nearly a year since the scandal broke, Nury Martinez spoke out in an exclusive interview with LAist Studios about her version of what transpired in October 2022.
In a four-part series, Martinez was interviewed by Antonia Cereijido, host of LAist Studios’ ‘’Imperfect Paradise” podcast and addressed the hurtful comments and race-tinged language that can be heard on the leaked audio recording.
The podcast is expected to cover what happened when the scandal initially broke through via political context, and include a deep dive into Martinez’s beginnings as a public servant to her rise to one of the most powerful jobs in LA.
“Imperfect Paradise” is an award-winning weekly narrative podcast covering significant stories in California. In four seasons on the air, the show has delved into stories with various themes – including the housing crisis in Orange County, death of a Chicano activist and the legacy of the 1990’s Chicano Movement, controversial L.A. Sheriff Alex Villanueva and how a yoga guru shifted into conspiracy theories during the pandemic.
“Every season really is about a big tension between our very ambitious and beautiful dreams here as Angelenos versus the actual reality that we live in,” Cereijido said.
The leaked audio tape of racist comments snagged a group of influential Latinos in LA politics, including Nury Martinez, former Councilmember Gil Cedillo, current Councilmember Kevin de León and former Federation of Labor President Ron Herrera, and soon after there came immediate calls for their resignations, the LA Times reported.
In the recording, Nury Martinez made disrespectful and racist comments about Indigenous Oaxacan communities, as well as hateful comments towards LA Councilmember Mike Bonin’s young son. In response, many organizations led marches and protests, including Comunidades Indígenas en Liderazgo (also known as Indigenous Communities in Leadership or CIELO) and Black Lives Matter Los Angeles.
On Oct. 12, 2022, Martinez announced her resignation from the L.A. City Council. Of the four politicians in that infamous leaked conversation, only de León has remained in a position of political power and recently announced his reelection bid.
Martinez says she has barely left her house and has not been in contact with LA council members since the scandal occurred.
Antonia Cereijido, host of ‘Imperfect Paradise’ (Photo by Samanta Helou Hernandez, courtesy of Katie Fuchs)
Cereijido told CALÓ NEWS that she had originally planned to reach out to Martinez’s closest friends, colleagues and critics in order to get a fuller picture of who Martinez was and what her political career meant for the city of Los Angeles.
Eventually Cereijido made it onto Martinez’s radar and Martinez agreed to provide an exclusive interview, in part because Martinez wanted such an interview to be conducted by a Latina host.
Before going into the interview with Nury Martinez, Cereijido said that she spoke to current and former council members, various experts and community leaders, in order to be better informed when speaking to Martinez. She also read two books, “We Will Not Cancel Us,” by Adrian Marie Brown, and “Which Side Are You On,” by Ryan Lee Long, to help prepare for tackling the issue of how communities can move on from such scandals.
“I really wanted to get into sort of the systemic issues that were underlying the worst that she said,” Cereijido said. “And try to see if we can both see if we can hold her accountable, but also hold the community accountable.”
Cereijido told CALÓ NEWS that after she first heard the leaked tapes, her initial reaction was that of pain, and she compared it to the embarrassment of listening to a family member make an off-the-cuff racist remark in front of a friend that they were introducing for the first time. But Cereijido pointed out that she believes that painful comments made on the tapes were a reflection of commonly held biases within the Latino community.
According to a survey conducted by the Pew Research Center, nearly half of Hispanic adults say they have sometimes heard loved ones make these negative remarks towards other Latinos and other cultures.
In order to move forward from the pain this scandal has caused, accountability must happen, experts say. Henry Perez, President of Innercity Struggle, said that he believes that Martinez could have easily done more to show her repentance for the communities.
“She has every right to tell her story. I wish that one of her first actions was not doing an interview, but actually working with the communities that she has harmed,” Perez said.
The first episode of the Nury interview was released on Sept. 27, and Perez said that he hopes that this interview will remind Latinos about that dark moment that occurred less than a year ago and that the community has still not received full accountability.
“I hope this reminds us that that one person shouldn’t take the fall for four four individuals, which seems to be what is taking place here,” Perez said.
A representative from de León’s office declined to comment about the LAist interview.
New episodes of “Nury and the Secret Tapes” will be available every Wednesday, starting Sept. 27, and will also be broadcast on-air at LAist 89.3 on Sundays at 7 p.m. Pacific.