Radio Exchange

This past month I attended a two-part "intercambio" between two radio stations- La X Musical and Doble Via. The idea of the intercambio was implemented by Cultural Survival, a non profit in the states that works with various stations, helping to get them tools, equipment, and lobby for the legalization of community radio. The goal of the intercambio is to unite two different stations from nearby towns and exchange ideas about community radio while also building a stronger bond between member radio stations of the community radio movement. Cultural Survival assigned the pairs, considering the ways in which these stations could complement each other and offer new perspectives.

La X Musical is the indigenous station in Cajolá that I have been working with most consistently. It is about 2 hours away from Xela's center by chicken bus and primrarily consists of older members ranging from ages 40 to 80, who comprise the radio's committee. Not all committee members have programs broadcast on the radio, but many do. A few of these members are Mayan priests, who I have met with various times to observe their programs about Mayan culture and the Mayan ceremonies they broadcast via the radio. While many of La X's programmers explained general ideologies about the preservation of their Maam culture, most of the programs did not seem to have structured topics based on my observations of daily programming and their presentations about their show at the intercambio. Instead the station seems to serve as a hub for community callers and town announcements, while playing marimba music and offering a Maam alternative to Spanish-speaking commercial stations.


In contrast, Doble Via is a noteably young station, whose programmers are mostly teenagers. The station is in San Mateo, 30 minutes outside of Xela's center. It was founded by Tino, director of Muj'bab'lyol (a Guatemalan nonprofit for the democratization of communication that collaborates with Cultural Survival). Unlike La X Musical, Doble Via does not have a very indigenous identity, but instead offer programs about health, rights, the environment, and politics. Though I haven't observed Doble Via's shows as I have with La X, the programmers at this station presented their shows as having very structured content. 

The first intercambio took place at Doble Via and the second at La X Musical, each station leading a day and half workshop. The visiting station sent a few representatives to attend the other's intercambio, where members and programmers presented their history, programs, goals, and ideas. At Doble Via, they used power point presentations, led team-building activities, and drew a web on the board to discuss the bureaucratic composition of the station. Led by the public relations director, the intercambio felt very business-like, structured, and modern. At La X Musical, they used no technology (except a broken transmitter to simulate the broadcasting of a show), performed a short Mayan dance, and took us up to a nearby hill top to lead a Mayan ceremony. It was quite a juxtaposition to watch an old Mayan priest run through an obstacle course at Doble Via's intercambio, and then a group of teenagers pray at a Mayan ceremony. The intercambio really revealed just how different these community radio stations are. They unite under the same illegal category of community radio, open to participation from all religious sects, political beliefs, and community members, yet vary immensely in membership, programming, and organization. 


This event made me start thinking about the ways in which Cultural Survival has shaped the formation of the community radio movement and network. When Cultural Survival first began their project, they had to find community radio stations to be members. Many pirate stations wanted to be supported by the organization, claiming to be community radio, open to anyone, when in reality they were religious radio, dedicated to one religious belief. Cultural Survival therefore created requirements that stations had to fill in order to officially qualify as a community radio station. One of them was that only 30% of programming could be religious. Stations who wanted to be members adjusted to fulfill these requisites. This intercambio would never have happened without Cultural Survival. Attending workshops and intercambios does not seem out of the ordinary to me. At Brown I have gone to retreats for extracurricularactivities, attended regular club meetings, and been to workshops on teaching and leadership. But here, especially for the priests of La X Musical, this all is a very new concept. I hope to explore this very idea more, examining how the many layers of the community radio movement interact- from the local, indigenous position of the programmers at La X, to the international level of Cultural Survival. How do the local interpret and receive the global and how do the global shape and represent the local?