[Documents menu] Documents menu

From newsdesk@igc.apc.org Wed Jul 19 13:50:11 2000
Date: Thu, 13 Jul 2000 22:53:34 -0500 (CDT)
From: IGC News Desk <newsdesk@igc.apc.org>
Subject: COMMUNICATION-COSTA RICA: Indigenous Voices Take the Airwaves
Article: 100378
To: undisclosed-recipients:;
X-UIDL: 5e1f31360101648d6bd73bbb47d58689

Indigenous Voices Take the Airwaves

By N‚fer Muñoz, IPS, 12 July 2000

SAN JOSE, Jul 12 (IPS) - Indigenous groups in Costa Rica are using radio waves to preserve their cultures and traditions, resolve community problems and spread news from their villages in their own languages.

Radio Maleku, La Voz de Talamanca and Radio Boruca are three rural radio stations that have set the standard for indigenous broadcast communications and currently keep several communities informed of local news and promote distance learning for young people.

The radio helps us a great deal in the development of our towns, Radio Boruca director Carlos Morales told IPS.

Despite their modest studios and limited technological infrastructure, the three radio stations operate seven days a week - the work of indigenous volunteers and announcers.

The stations are the collective property of their respective communities. Once a year, each holds a general assembly to elect the members of the radio station board.

Such is the case of Radio Boruca, located in the village of the same name 200 km southeast of San Jose with a population of 3,000. There, Morales and eight others are in charge of filling airtime every day from 4:00 am to 5:00 pm local time.

We have very useful shows, said Morales, We broadcast agricultural news, local music and advice on how to deal with naturally caused problems, like flooding.

The initiative to promote indigenous radio in this country dates back to 1979 when a project of the non-governmental Costa Rican Institute of Radio Education (ICER) was born.

Since then, ICER, in conjunction with the Ministry of Education, has sought to provide broadcast equipment, maintenance, and training for technicians and announcers, but always ensuring that it is the local community that directly manages and runs the radio stations.

The goals of these three stations are to uphold local indigenous culture, as well as informing, training and entertaining, ICER journalist Rohanny Vallejo told IPS.

As a result of decisions by the assemblies, and a reflection of community practices, the stations' programmes are broadcast in Spanish, and occasionally in the local languages.

Special educational programmes are recorded in ICER studios, many in indigenous languages, then broadcast locally as part of the distance learning project.

Several international organisations specialising in indigenous issues have indicated that, though today indigenous peoples make up just seven percent of the population in the Americas, they must be given support to encourage community development.

The International Labour Organisation (ILO) pointed out that one of the biggest errors committed by Latin American governments has been to treat indigenous peoples as populations in transition, who must be integrated into the dominant white culture.

The ICER initiative tries to avoid making the same mistake by giving local communities complete autonomy in deciding the fate of their radio stations.

The indigenous stations have turned out to be a great help in the area of education, said Rito Stewart, of the Bri Bri indigenous group and ICER employee.

Stewart is an educator, graduate of the National University of Costa Rica, and is involved in creating literacy programmes for the far-flung regions of the country.

These radio programmes, known as Teacher in the House, help rural youth older than 14 to pursue studies at the primary or secondary level from their own homes.

An ILO study estimates that the current indigenous population of Costa Rica tops 30,000 people, and indicates that the best- preserved languages of these communities are Maleku, Guaym¡, Cab‚car and Bri Bri.

The special informative role of the three indigenous radio stations is evident when they announce special parliamentary projects, community meetings or town activities. If such information is provided over the airwaves, community participation tends to be widespread.

These radio stations are currently engaged in information efforts in local languages about procedures the indigenous communities must follow in order to take part in the national census underway in Costa Rica.

We are very pleased because the announcers are preserving our culture and we are involved in important social efforts thanks to the radio, which belongs to us, said Morales.