What’s the best way to make an ancient civilization accessible to a wide audience? Ask Jackeline and Lesli Hernandez, and they will tell you that podcasting is the key. The two sisters, who both graduated from CSUDH in May with degrees in anthropology, started the podcast “Uncovering the Ancient Maya” in Spring 2022 to provide accurate, historical insights about the Maya to the general public.
“Podcasting is how people now get information,” Lesli said. “Maya culture is hard to explain. We hear so many misconceptions about the Maya community, and we wanted people to be more informed.”
The Hernandez sisters credit Assistant Professor of Anthropology Ken Seligson for helping them conceptualize the project and for connecting them with the prominent anthropology scholars who would become their guests. Other members of the CSUDH community also contributed their expertise. Assistant Professor of Communications Fernando Severino served as an advisor for the project, and the podcast’s theme music was created by music performance student Shannon Gaebrielle Hefley.
To prepare for each episode, Jackeline and Lesli read their guest’s research papers, planned interview questions, and thought carefully about how to frame the conversation in a way that was both interesting and easy to understand. They also had to learn about recording and editing processes, often relying on trial and error as they encountered glitches.
“I never realized how much work goes into a 20 to 30-minute podcast,” Lesli said. “It amazed me how long it takes! It definitely taught me new skills.”
Together, the pair produced and hosted three episodes, covering topics such as the importance of burnt lime, hieroglyphs and language, and culinary practices. Jackeline explained that they wanted to explore topics many people do not normally associate with the ancient Maya.
“People focus on things like human sacrifice, but they don’t know about the more amazing things the Maya did,” she said. “There are a lot of stereotypes in what the media has presented. We wanted people to have the right information.”
Though the sisters have now graduated from CSUDH, there are plans for the podcast to continue. Seligson, who leads a research team in the Yucatán area of Mexico each year, said listeners can expect a bonus episode or two this summer. In the fall, the hope is for a new team of students to take over the podcast. Jackeline and Lesli look forward to seeing the project evolve, and offered a few words of advice for the next hosts.
“You might not like your voice on the first episode, and that’s okay,” Jackeline said. “You get better, and it gets more natural. You have to push through that self-doubt and struggles in the beginning, because in the end it’s all going to come together.”