West Texas Talk

West Texas Talk — Marfa Public Radio’s flagship program — made its debut when the station launched and is now a repository of hundreds of local profiles.

The show is hosted by Diana Nguyen and other contributors. The program is also produced by Diana Nguyen. 

The program features discussions about regional issues and topics with residents and experts. Whether looking at immigration on the border, delving into West Texas history, or having conversations about the Big Bend’s changing towns we hope to explore the topics that matter most to residents.

The show also celebrates the creative spirit of Far West Texas and features conversations with writers, musicians, filmmakers, and artists who both live here and pass through the region. 

Subscribe to the West Texas Talk podcast on Apple Podcasts.

West Texas Talk broadcasts on Thursday at 6 pm and rebroadcasts Friday at 9 am.

The show’s theme music was composed by Andy Stack.

Recently on West Texas Talk:

Thursday, Oct 31, 2019:
There’s Something Out There

James Kim (Keith Ladzinski)

James Kim

This week we’re breaking format on West Texas Talk and highlighting some spooky stories. 

We’re revisiting There’s Something Out There — a 2014 series about the strange things that happen in everyday life.

You’ll hear tales of strange lights, a horse, and ghosts, in addition to a conversation between host Diana Nguyen and producer James Kim about making the show.

You can find all five episodes of There’s Something Out There below:

Thursday, Oct 24, 2019:
C.J. Alvarez on “Border Land, Border Water”; Disconapping and Sauvignon Blanca Bring Drag to Marfa

C.J. Alvarez (Courtesy of)

C.J. Alvarez

Diana Nguyen talks to C.J. Alvarez, author of Border Land, Border Water.

Alvarez explores the history of the construction projects that have shaped the region where the United States and Mexico meet, examining how the border has come to look and function as it does today.

Alvarez is an assistant professor in the department of Mexican American and Latina/o Studies at The University of Texas Austin. He’s currently a Mellon Fellow at the School for Advanced Research in Santa Fe, New Mexico and is working on his second book about the history of the Chihuahuan Desert.



Christopher Gonzales (Sauvignon Blanca) and Paul Chavarria (Disconapping) at a drag show in May 2019. (Rowdy Dugan)

Paul Chavarria and Christopher Gonzales

Later in the show, Nguyen talks with Paul Chavarria and Chris Gonzales.

The pair began organizing drag shows shortly after moving to Marfa. At their first event nearly a year ago, Chavarria made his debut as a DJ under the “Disconapping” moniker and Gonzales first performed in drag as Sauvignon Blanca.

This weekend, they will host their fourth drag show.

Chavarria and Gonzales talk about creating a queer space in Marfa and about their future hopes for the parties.

Hallowqueen 2: The Shriekquel will take place at 9 pm on Saturday, October 26 at Cochineal in Marfa.


Thursday, Oct 17, 2019:
MIT’s Energy Initiative Director Robert Armstrong; Linda Norden on John Wesley

Robert Armstrong (Kelley Travers, MITEI)

Robert “Bob” Armstrong

Diana Nguyen speaks Robert Armstrong, the director of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Energy Initiative which “links science, technology, and policy to transform the world’s energy system.”

They discuss transitions happening in the world’s energy landscape due to climate change.

Armstrong was in Marfa in early October when the Chihuahuan Desert Research Institute hosted him to talk about combating climate change.



Ovum, from Panoply: Eight Silkscreens Inspired by the Splendours of the Great War, 1971. (©John Wesley)


Linda Norden on John Wesley

Later in the show, Nguyen talks to New York-based art historian and curator Linda Norden about John Wesley — Chinati Foundation’s first artist-in-residence.

In 2004, the organization opened the John Wesley gallery, which features a concentrated retrospective of Wesley’s paintings.

The organization debuted a rehanging of the gallery this past Chinati Weekend. It includes rarely exhibited paintings from the permanent collection as well as Panoply: Eight Silkscreen Prints Inspired by the Splendours of the Great War.

Nguyen and Norden discuss John Wesley’s work and relationship with Donald Judd.

Linda Norden was in Marfa during Chinati Weekend to talk about the artist.


Thursday, Oct 10, 2019:
Big Bend’s 75th Birthday; Chinati Artist In Residence Leeza Meksin

Big Bend National Park was founded in 1944. (L. Bartsch / Courtesy of National Park Service)

Superintendent Bob Krumenaker
& Chief of Interpretation Tom VandenBerg

On West Texas Talk, we’re celebrating the 75th birthday of Big Bend National Park. Diana Nguyen speaks to Superintendent Bob Krumenaker and Chief of Interpretation Tom VandenBerg about the history of the beloved parks founding and about what’s on the horizon.



Chinati Artist in Residence Leeza Meksin (Diana Nguyen / Marfa Public Radio)

Chinati Artist In Residence Leeza Meksin

The Chinati Foundation has hosted artist residents from a variety of disciplines since 1989. Each year, the organization chooses six people to work in Marfa for two months.

Chinati’s current guest is Leeza Meksin — a New York-based interdisciplinary artist who works in painting, installation, and public art. Meksin was born in the former Soviet Union but emigrated to the United States with her family in 1989.

Meksin received an MFA from The Yale School of Art and a BFA from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago.  She currently teaches at Columbia University’s School of the Arts.

Meksin will have an Open Studio at The Locker Plant in Marfa on Friday, October 11 from 5 to 8 pm as part of Chinati Weekend.


Thursday, Oct 3, 2019:
Marfa’s BBQ Darlings; Writer NoViolet Bulawayo

Adam Bork, Katy Rose Elsasser, Mark Scott, and Kaki Aufdengarten of Convenience West (Sarah Vasquez / Courtesy of Big Bend Sentinel)

Katy Rose Elsasser and Mark Scott of Convenience West

Far West Texas is often described as desolate. And for a long time, in terms of barbecue, it was.

But the recent arrival of a couple of restaurants like Convenience West has changed that. The restaurant made the cut for Texas Monthly’s Top 25 New Barbeque Joints in Texas, and this week, they were featured on BBQuest (a show that highlights secret menu items at some of the best barbecue joints in Texas.)

On this episode, Diana Nguyen speaks with Mark Scott and Katy Rose Elsasser — half of the minds behind Convenience West — about the states’ favorite pastime… smoked meats.



NoViolet Bulawayo (NyeLynTho)


NoViolet Bulawayo

In the second half of the show, Nguyen talks with NoViolet Bulawayo, a Lannan writer in residence.

Bulawayo is in Marfa working on a manuscript and is the author of the acclaimed 2013 novel We Need New Names. It’s the story of a young girl navigating a fragile and violent life in Zimbabwe. We follow her journey to the United States, where life isn’t everything she had hoped it would be.

They discuss the novel and Bulawayo’s fluid notion of “home.”


Thursday, Sep 26, 2019:
Best Of: David Keller On The History Of Pinto Canyon; Luchador Cassandro el Exótico

David Keller (Jessica Lutz)

David Keller

On this episode, we highlight some of our favorite 2019 interviews for a special Fall Membership Drive edition of West Texas Talk.

First, Diana Nguyen talks to archaeologist David Keller about his book, In The Shadow Of The Chinatis. Keller dives into the history of the early ranchers who settled the area and examines the forces that changed the region over the last hundred years.

This interview originally aired in May.






Cassandro el exótico (Rowdy Dugan / Courtesy Ballroom Marfa)

Cassandro el Exótico

Later on the show, Nguyen talks to Cassandro el exótico.

The El Paso-based luchador has been wrestling for over thirty years and learned to fight across the border in Ciudad Juarez as a teennager. Cassandro’s collected multiple championship titles throughout his career and blazed trails as one of lucha libre’s first openly gay wrestlers.

Armendariz is the subject of Marie Losier’s 2018 documentary, Cassandro, the Exotico!

This interview originally aired in August.

Thursday, Sep 19, 2019:
Luis Armendariz; Musician Molly Rodriguez

Luis Armendariz at the Presidio Lumber Yard. (Carlos Morales / Marfa Public Radio)

Luis Armendariz

For today’s show, we’re highlighting voices from Presidio to celebrate of the launch our newest broadcast frequency KOJP 95.3 FM. 

Diana Nguyen talks to Luis Armendariz, a 75-year-old Presidio resident who’s spent the majority of his life in West Texas. He was the former superintendent of Big Bend Ranch State Park and took over managing the Presidio Lumber Yard — the Armendariz family business — after he retired from Texas Parks and Wildlife.

They discuss his life and family history.



Molly Rodriguez (Emanuel Burgos )

Molly Rodriguez

Later in the show, Diana Nguyen speaks to Ojinaga-based musician Molly Rodriguez.

She plays across West Texas with Mariachi Santa Cruz and The Resonators. (Her parents, John and Lucy Ferguson, are bandmates in both outfits.)

On top of playing gigs, she’s busy teaching band in Presidio and making her own music, sometimes collaborating with her younger brother FullyMaxxed.

Nguyen talks to Rodriguez talks about growing up in Presidio, what it’s like to split time between two countries, and her music.

You can listen the new song “Descansar” here.

Thursday, Sep 12, 2019:
The Odessa Shooting

Odessans mourn at the memorial for victims of the shooting that occurred on August 31, 2019. (Mitch Borden / Marfa Public Radio)

Mitch Borden and Carlos Morales

Diana Nguyen talks to Marfa Public Radio reporters Mitch Borden and Carlos Morales about the shooting that began in Midland County and continued into the City of Odessa over Labor Day Weekend.

On August 31st, A 36-year-old white gunman opened fire after being stopped by a state trooper. He proceeded to drive through Odessa on a rampage, killing 7 people and injuring at least 25 others. 

This was the second mass shooting in West Texas within the span of a month. In early August, a gunman targeted Hispanics at a Walmart in El Paso. He killed 22 people and injured 24 others.

They discuss how Odessa is coping and what state and federal lawmakers are doing to address gun violence.



Thursday, Sep 5, 2019:
Marfa Garden; Andy Stack of Joyero

(Trinity University Press)

Jim Martinez and Mary Lou Saxon on “Marfa Garden”

Diana Nguyen speaks to Jim Martinez and Mary Lou Saxon about the book Marfa Garden. The project is a collaboration with their friends, Jim Fissell, and Martha Hughes, that showcases the beauty and variety of native plants of the Big Bend. 

The book includes a selection of vines, grasses, trees, herbs, shrubs, cacti and succulents that can be found in the Chihuahuan Desert.



Andy Stack of Joyero (Logan Caldbeck)

Andy Stack of Joyero

Later on the show, Nguyen speaks to musician Andy Stack. The former Marfa resident is one half of the band Wye Oak and plays with EL VY and Lambchop.

Most recently, Stack embarked on a solo project under the Joyero moniker. His newest record, Release the Dogs, was written in Marfa and came out via Merge Records in late August.

Thursday, Aug 29, 2019:
Rainer Judd; YACHT on Chain Tripping

Rainer Judd (Charlie Rubin © Judd Foundation)

Rainer Judd

Diana Nguyen speaks to Rainer Judd, the daughter of the late artist Donald Judd and the president of the Judd Foundation. The organization maintains and preserves Judd’s permanently installed spaces and archives in New York and Marfa.

They discuss the reasons her father moved to the Big Bend and Rainer’s Marfa roots.



Rob Kieswetter, Claire L. Evans, and Jona
Bechtolt of YACHT (Jaclyn Campanaro)

YACHT

Later on the show, Nguyen speaks to Jona Bechtolt and Claire L. Evans, two-thirds of the LA-based band YACHT.

Over the years, they’ve made it a tradition to record their albums in Marfa. Most recently, they came out to Far West Texas in 2018 to work on their seventh album, Chain Tripping, which is out on DFA Records this week.

The band talks about how they used artificial intelligence as a creative tool in the writing process for their latest record, their long history as collaborators, and why they keep coming back to Marfa.