Two University of New Mexico graduates are starting a documentary series on YouTube called Duke City Diaries, and they’re taking it to the streets of one of Albuquerque’s roughest neighborhoods.

Originally from Chicago, Frank Blazquez has called New Mexico home for more than a decade.

“I fell in love with it, that’s why I’m still here,” Blazquez said.

Meanwhile, his friend John Acosta grew up his entire life in the Duke City.

“I grew up in those areas and really I’m still part of the hood,” Acosta said.

After graduating from the University of New Mexico, the two combined their love of people and storytelling and headed to one of the roughest neighborhoods in southeast Albuquerque – the International District.

They’ve started working on a series known as “Duke City Diaries.”

“This isn’t a fictional series,” Blazquez said. 

“They’re really real and really raw,” Acosta said. 

The series follows people who have lived troubled lives and who have broken the law in order to survive.

For Blazquez and Acosta, these are the stories that hardly ever get told.

“It’s not as cut and dry, not easily visible from the surface,” Blazquez said. “So rather than stereotyping it and labeling it – me and John – we want to go in and dig deeper, and give people the chance to speak for themselves.”

Blazquez said some of the people they’ve featured are friends of his, others are complete strangers. Still, he said they all have one thing in common – they’re in the midst of turning their lives around.

“We like to highlight stories of reformation and people that are doing something for the community that’s changed their lives,” Blazquez said. 

“You don’t realize how that person got to those circumstances, what kind of hand that person was dealt, and that’s why Duke City Diaries aims to bridge that gap,” Acosta said.