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Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

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October 4, 2022
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People of UT: Hiram Garcia

Editor’s note: This podcast was originally published on Spotify on April 8, 2024.

In this People of UT episode, Audio Producer Joseph Sweeney talks to Hiram Garcia — a UT alumnus and independent video journalist. Most known for livestreaming protests, Garcia’s work has been featured in major publications such as PBS, CBS 60 Minutes, the BBC and The New York Times.

Reported and produced by Joseph Sweeney. Cover shot by Manoo Sirivelu and designed by Carla Garcia Leija. Music by Blue Dot Sessions.


 

This episode of People of UT contains mentions of violence and death which some viewers may find disturbing. Viewer discretion is advised. 

 

*People of UT Intro theme*

 

Joseph Sweeney: Welcome to People of UT, the show that introduces you to members of the UT community that have made a positive impact, big or small, on other community members. I’m your host for this episode, Joseph Sweeney. 

 

Picture this: you’re in high school. You’re the star of the debate team and an intern for Congressman Beto O’Rourke’s office in El Paso. Your dream is to go into politics, and you’re doing everything you can to jumpstart your career. Your sophomore year of college, you transfer to UT to study government and international relations. Before you know it, you’re the vice president of Longhorn LULAC, the League of United Latin American Citizens, advocating for civil rights and the economic advancement of your local Latin-X community. 

 

Everything was pointing towards you serving a more traditional career in politics. But in 2020, when protests erupt nationwide in response to police brutality, you start serving your community in a different way — by live-streaming and making videos. 

 

Hiram Garcia (Livestream Archive): Thank you so much for joining us tonight, my name is Hiram and I’m the host of these documentaries that cover pertinent issues in Texas and around the country.

 

Hiram Garcia (Interview): Every time somebody would ask me who I was with, or like what news agency with who are you with? Like, who are you filming for? I’m Hiram. You know, I’m just Hiram. I’m just some dude with the camera filming what’s going on. And that’s where I’m Hiram LLC came from.

 

Joseph: Meet Hiram Garcia, a class of 2019 UT alumnus and now an independent video and broadcast journalist. 

 

Garcia: People really liked the way that I was kind of explaining how things were going and it seemed like I just had a very natural skill for journalism. I don’t even know if it’s natural, because like, I had a lot of experience in debate, public speaking. And I was really well informed politically because, you know, that’s what I studied in college. So I was able to really, you know, run people through with some experience in communication and a lot of knowledge in political science. So, you know, I think that’s what ultimately led to my career. And I think that’s just kind of how it started, you know, just being involved in it and one day accidentally, live streaming on Facebook.

 

Protest Chants: Hands up, (don’t shoot), hands up, (don’t shoot), hands up, (don’t shoot), hands up, (don’t shoot), hands up, (don’t shoot),

 

Joseph: Garcia’s unexpected career began in 2020 when he live-streamed a protest organized by the Black Lives Matter movement in response to the death of George Floyd at the hands of a police officer. 

Now, for nearly four years, Garcia has made it his goal to stand out against other reporters and publications by going to where others don’t dare venture.

 

Garcia: A big part of the reason was that there was not a lot of coverage really on the front lines of what people were saying of who was throwing the bricks or who was starting the violence, right because media often didn’t get close enough to really film like, you know what led to escalations and violence between protesters and police because a lot of things happen right police officers were put on trial and even charged sometimes with violent like police brutality incidents, you know, relating to how they use tear gas or how they use flashbangs or like rubber bullets. And a lot of my footage was useful in determining who was a perpetrator of violence at these protests because I was right there, right in front of the bullet, you know, right in front of the molotov cocktail and the media wasn’t because they had fiscal liabilities and insurance reasons. They couldn’t get their guys so close to where everything was actually happening.

 

*Police sirens*

 

Joseph: In 2020, Garcia and his material came into national spotlight when Garrett Foster, an armed individual at a Black Lives Matter protest, was shot and killed during a confrontation with a protest bystander, U.S. Army Sergeant Daniel Perry.

 

Garcia: That became like international news, but not only was international news, but nobody really knew what happened. And the only person that had any video that was me and I happen to be like feet away from getting shot myself. I was like right around the corner from the car and as I was walking around, the car pulled into the crowd and I was in the crowd. And so I got to run up to the car and I was about to turn the corner to see what was going on between Garrett Foster and Daniel Perry and as I was turning, Daniel Perry shot Garrett Foster, killed him and I didn’t get to fully turn around and look, so I booked it back the other direction. I thought it was a mass shooting for sure. Like I thought I was dead. But I was live streaming this whole time and that video is on 60 minutes now that video was used by every single news outlet in this entire country. And I’d say internationally too, like it was huge news right because I was the only one with video. 

 

Joseph: Garcia is one of five individuals who testified in the trial of Daniel Perry. Perry was convicted of murder and sentenced to 25 years prison in may of last year.

After witnessing the incident, Garcia incorporated pepper spray and a bullet proof vest into his reporting attire. And despite some opposition, he remains committed to reporting on the homefront. 

 

Garcia: I’ve had people ask me to fight, I mean, this is something that I’ve learned to deal with. And like I said, the only reason that I think I’m even here today and have been able to avoid most dangerous situations is just because I’m really good at de-escalating and talking to people 

 

Joseph: Garcia says that despite the occasional confrontation, he still makes it a goal to understand where people’s actions may stem from.

 

Garcia: It’s really easy for other people, or for us to assume that people have positions or ideas because they’re bad people, when really they’re just hungry or are missing something or feel like there’s something going on in government or in politics that threatens your well-being like that. And if you could listen and understand that I think you could get through to most people.

 

Joseph: In spite of the danger he faces everyday, Garica says that his new and unconventional style of journalism helps him stand out traditional news outlets, so much so that he’s had work featured in major publications such as PBS, CBS 60 minutes, the BBC and the New York Times.

 

Hiram: I don’t do it for money. Because if I did it for money, then my model would be based on profit, which would be heavily dependent on my associations to things like insurance companies and like, you know, what sells and what doesn’t, as an independent journalist like because I’m not focused on profit, sometimes I can make risky decisions that are not necessarily profitable, but are necessary. If you really boil it down to why media outlets are not more like independent journalists. It’s just because of fiscal liabilities. And, you know, that’s unfortunate, but that’s just the model through which everything in this society works, which, you know, that’s not something I’m arguing with or anything. It’s just like, really, I think it’s just because like, you know, I wasn’t necessarily following all the best industry practices for how to make the most money. I was just putting myself out there for the sake of documenting.

 

Joseph: And while he does accrue some money via livestream donations, the majority of Garcia’s income is brought in via the professional video services he offers. Through this, he’s been able to contribute to documentaries on PBS, film concerts for artists such as Lil’ Wayne and Kodak Black, and much more. And although he has branched out more in recent years , reporting on the Austin community and beyond remains Garcia’s focus. So much so that he lives out of a van to save money and reinvest into the community and improving the quality of his reporting. 

 

Garcia: I’ve also had a lot of experience living in really difficult situations in college. I was homeless for an entire semester and a half I lived down on my car and you know, showered at greg you know, being low income but yeah, that versatility has allowed me to like really expand my horizons and do more than just a nine to five like I really have been able to take control my own life and, you know, get involved in, you know, different and amazing projects that I otherwise wouldn’t, because like, honestly, if it was all about the money, I’ve been making the wrong decisions this entire time.

 

Protest chants: Free free free Palestine (free free free Palestine)

 

Joseph: Looking towards the future, Garcia plans to continue reporting on political movements in and around the Austin area, and developing his platform as a way to educate the wider community on a variety of political and social issues.

 

Garcia: When I was first starting this, I didn’t know how to do it. I didn’t know how to talk to people. I didn’t know how to educate people I didn’t know, you know, like how easily anything I said can be twisted. So like sometimes, I would say things with good intentions that were offensive or harmful to other people. And so all of that, I guess, like better communication skills, more empathy toward my audience

I’m really happy the way everything turned out. And honestly, sometimes I feel like my life is a little bit out of a movie. Cause, you know, like I’ve told you, I’ve lived and I’ve seen a lot of things that I think a lot of people haven’t had the privilege to, but mostly, it’s just because I’ve been willing to take risks

 

*People of UT Outro theme*

 

Joseph: People of UT is a production of the Daily Texan audio department. If you liked this episode, make sure you subscribe to The Daily Texan Podcasts on your streaming platform of choice and follow us on Twitter @texanaudio. This episode was reported and edited by me, Joseph Sweeney. Thank you for listening.

 

Est. Run time: 8 min

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