In June 2014, King Juan Carlos de Borbón I of Spain suddenly abdicated the throne after 50 years of rule, creating mystery and intrigue for his country and the world. Though we may never truly know what went on behind closed doors, a new Spanish-language podcast, XREY—the first exclusive podcast to come out of Spotify in Spain—promises to shed light on the story.
The 10-episode show features more than 40 interview subjects who help us get to know the bewildering King. The podcast was written and directed by investigative journalist Álvaro de Cózar and produced by Toni Garrido, who has a history in both radio and TV. This isn’t the first time the pair have worked together. They also created a podcast called V., las cloacas del estado (“V., the sewers of the state”), which looks at Spanish history through the eyes of an undercover agent.
We chatted with the cocreators about their latest podcast to learn more about unraveling the mystery that followed King Juan Carlos I.
Why should listeners who aren’t familiar with the Spanish monarchy check out XREY?
Álvaro de Cózar: I think it will give listeners an overview, a sort of bigger picture, of a well-known character in history. People were conflicted on how they felt about Juan Carlos. That’s why we’re doing an “x-ray” of him. I think that, by asking ourselves who King Juan Carlos is, we are able to answer quite a few things about who we are and who we have been in this country.
What about King Juan Carlos’s story made you want to create this podcast?
Álvaro: The King interested me from the moment he abdicated—it was shrouded in so much mystery that I became curious. But, I never really considered carrying out any sort of project until I talked to Toni about it. What we’ve tried to do is answer a very basic question: Who is Juan Carlos I?
Toni Garrido: By telling his story, we are telling the story of Spain. His contradictions, his dilemmas, his weaknesses, his strengths, his past—how is it possible that we don’t really know much about this man who reigned for so long?
Why do you think a podcast was the best medium through which to tell this story?
Toni: For us, the podcast is a genre in itself; it is a concrete way of telling a story. Thanks to the sound, we can travel, recreate, and deepen our understanding. When someone presses “start” for a podcast, it shows curiosity, interest, and desire to learn a new world.
How does music play a role in XREY?
Toni: Music was essential. Ale Acosta, one of the best producers in the country, helped us convey the story’s atmosphere while enhancing these extraordinary moments in history. And I recommend you listen carefully to the main tune; it hides a big secret. And the closing song from Javier Limón—it’s a great song that is sure to be a success. In addition to the music, Yago Mendivil did some exceptional sound design.
You spoke to dozens of people during your investigation—who were you most excited to interview?
Álvaro: I would say Alfredo Pérez Rubalcaba. He was a man who knew both his country and Spanish politics. While he’s been accused of many things, I sincerely believe that he was someone who built bridges and was in permanent contact with his adversary. He played an essential role in King Juan Carlos’s abdication. It was a blow when we learned that he had died so suddenly [in May 2019]. Rubalcaba appears in episode 2 of XREY, and we decided to publish the full interview because it is the last one he gave to a media outlet. It’s a very interesting testimony to complete the podcast.
Has your perception of King Juan Carlos changed during the process of creating the podcast?
Álvaro: I previously only considered him linked to key historical events: the struggle for power, the arrival of democracy, the “23-F” coup attempt of February 23, 1981—and then the sailing boats, the photos, the smiles. What I discovered after the podcast is that he is a much more complex character from a psychological point of view, which makes for very interesting—and sometimes very contradictory—baggage. He’s a character who had everything and then destroyed it in only a few years. That self-destruction could be due to clumsiness or impunity, but I believed that there was something else.
Intrigued? Catch up on your Spanish history and learn the secrets of King Juan Carlos de Borbón I in the podcast below.