Community Radio in Guatemala

The indigenous peoples of Guatemala have kept their culture through 500 years of colonization, brutal repression, and, most recently, 36 years of genocide that killed 200,000 Maya. But where brute force failed, globalization is succeeding. Mainstream Western entertainment is now flooding Guatemala‘s airwaves, hammering home the 24-hour-a-day message that Mayans should abandon their languages, their clothing, their spirituality, and their identities. And the only thing holding back this tidal wave of homogeneity is a network of tiny 500-watt radio stations.
Cultural Survival is partnering with Guatemalan nongovernmental organizations to strengthen this network of 140 community radio stations across the country, many of which broadcast in one or more of the country’s 23 indigenous languages. The stations provide news, educational programming, health information, and traditional music, all reinforcing pride in Mayan heritage. We provide the equipment and organizational expertise; they provide the people and the passion. And it’s working: languages on the brink of extinction have come back into common use; marimba music that was being replaced with top-40 songs is being played again; and people are wearing the distinctive traje that defines where they come from and who they are. But the job has only begun. A loophole in Guatemalan laws allows the police to shut down stations and confiscate equipment, and they are doing this with increasing frequency. We need your help to shore up this fragile network of protection for Mayan communities and cultures.The project has five primary objectives:
•Pressing for reform of Guatemala’s telecommunications law.
•Strengthening community radio stations’ ability to produce quality content for broadcast to Indigenous peoples throughout the country.
•Training community radio volunteers with skills in journalism, lobbying, content creation, radionovela script-writing, and Internet use.
•Assisting the radio stations and the five radio associations to build a viable network to aid in the acquisition of needed news gathering, communication, and broadcast equipment.
•Building local capacity to sustain the project beyond Cultural Survival’s five-year involvement.