Making Waves by Alfonso Gumico Dagron

By Alfonso Gumico Dagron

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The impact of miners’ radio stations on social change is also important in terms of building cultural identity among miners’ and nearby peasant communities. On a daily basis, the radio stations were permanently open to participation. Visits to the stations were very frequent, whenever people needed to express themselves on any issue affecting their lives. The main innovations of the miners’ radio stations concern community participation. As simple as it looks when we describe it, it was as revolutionary in the 1950s, as it is today: clearly, very few participatory communication experiences have reached the point of total ownership of media in terms of technology, management, contents and service to the community.

At that time the miners’ unions in Bolivia were still very powerful and considered among the most important and politically advanced in Latin America. In times of peace and democracy — not very often — miners’ radio stations were integrated into the daily life of the community. They became the closest and most effective replacement for telephone and postal services. People would get their mail through the stations and post messages of all kinds, which were read several times during the day: calls for a meeting of women from the Comité de Amas de Casa (Housewives Committee); messages from the union leaders about their negotiations with the government in the capital; messages of love among youngsters; announcing a new play by Nuevos Horizontes drama group (often staged on the platform of a big truck, with workers illuminating the scene with their own lamps); announcements of sport activities, burials, births and festivities.

A swift process of migration towards the Mexican capital took place in the 1960s and 1970s, because the farming would only occupy the rural population for five months every year. Telephone and electricity was atypical and no local television or radio stations existed at all. The only option for the local population was listening to the stations from neighbouring states. This situation of isolation and poor available services motivated the creation of Radio Huayacocotla in 1965, as a radio-school.

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