By Elena Brito Herrera
This article summarizes how we worked to launch Community Radio Tiichajil Tenam.
Five years ago, in 2016, we heard amongst our families the need for a community radio which could inform our communities about our cultural values, since many youth have rebelled against their parents and the community. Although there are a lot of local radio stations, almost all of them are commercial or religious.
Because of this, the Q’imb’al Ixil weavers women’s initiative was born. We began looking for support to create a community radio but we did not find it, until some friends put us in touch with international institutions like Cultural Survival and WACC and their funding calls. We presented our proposal with a lot of doubt, we did not know if we were going to receive a positive answer.
We spoke with other organizations that were looking for the same thing, including communal authorities. We visited community by community. Catarina Raymundo Ramirez, integrant of the Principal’s Council of the Xe’jalvinte’ Community said it was important to have a community radio station because there are a lot of problems that can be solved with accurate information.
Pedro Bernal and Margarita Chavez, integrants of the Principal’s Council of the La Laguna community said that in the radio would help to bring awareness to the population about ways to solve local divisions. This messages encouraged us, along with the youth group Q’asab Yol, the Laval Iq Community Network, the youth from the Ixil University, FUNDAMAYA, and the ancestral authorities of the Vatz Suchil, Xe’ Jalvinte’, Turanza, La Laguna, Pexlaj, Xecax communities we began to build a vision for our community radio station.
First phase: Planning our activities
The first step was to visit the groups of women weavers and we spoke to the communal authorities about the possibility of creating a community radio station, and with a lot of joy, they showed their interest and offered their support. That gave us a lot of encouragement.
Little by little, we summoned and encouraged other groups in the municipalities of Nebaj, Chajul and Cotzal, to put their in their “grain of corn” and participate. Some groups were more determined than others. The group that now promotes community radio grew.
We began the planning process thinking about what workshops were necessary for the volunteers, which frequency would be used, and many other things to sort out. Planning took several meetings, but we were all very happy and cheerful about the implementation of our vision.
We made the Indigenous authorities, the Indigenous Mayorship of Nebaj, aware that we asked for their support. We had meetings with representatives from the youth group, Q’sabyol Tenam, and the Laval Iq’ Community Network, and some delgates of Q’imb’al Asociation from the six communities, also with students form the Ixil University, representatives of FUNDAMAYA, and some community authorities. The trust and collective effort grew.
Second phase: Training ourselves, making our strategic plan and planning the radio inauguration
We made a list of community media in Nebaj, Chajul and Cotzal. We included information on the owners, the prices for announcements, and services they offer. We became aware that we needed a radio by the community for the community.
The workshops helped us to think, discuss, ask questions, and decide. They woke up our awareness about our rights to have a community radio and we were informed about the laws that guaranteed these rights. We held two workshops on broadcasting and three on radiophony. Seventeen participants ended up taking part in the workshops.
We studied Guatemalan laws, the Peace Accords, Convention 169 of the ILO, the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and other international laws about Indigenous Peoples rights to have their own media, radio, and television. We also learned how to use a console, a transmitter, how to use a recorder and how to broadcast.
We discussed the name and agreed on Radio Tiichajil Tenam, which means wellness. It is a radio station that promotes culture, wellness, and is a space for people to speak about important community issues and learn and hear essential information. We decided the radio would be located in a community, and transmitted in the Ixil language and Spanish.
The logo was designed to represent the four cardinal points according to the Mayan Calendar, and a bird which sings messages represented as the day Iq’ (wind).
We decided to inaugurate Community Radio Tiichajil Tenam on December 29, 2019, on the date commemorating the Signing of the Peace Accords in Guatemala which ended the Civil War that lasted 36 years. Many participated in the celebration stating that it is our right to have a community radio, that is it part of our struggle, that the Peace Accords enshrined the right to have a frequency. Margarita Chavez, a member of the community commented that they had dreamt of a radio like this one and now it is a reality. There was a lot of joy and words of promise and support by the communities.
Third phase: The search, selection and purchasing of the equipment
An obstacle in this process is that places where they sell radio equipment only exist in Guatemala City, located 240 kilometers away from Nebaj. The same is true for the materials to construct a broadcast tower. We decided to ask a a blacksmith from Santiago Sacatepequez to work with us. There is only one distributor of transmitters in Guatemala City and the prices are very high, and there was no certainty that they would offer technical support in case we needed them in Nebaj due to the remoteness of the community.
Fourth phase: Community Radio Tiichajil Tenam on air
After all that work, Community Radio Tiichajil Tenam was born. It is now a reality. It was born, however with limited reach, our voice only gets to the nearby communities, but it does not reach far away communities that are surrounded by high mountains.
We also have limited experience in the management of a radio station but are learning the ropes planning programs and the volunteers are organizing themselves and taking turns broadcasting. No one is paid because we are all volunteers.
The station does not own its space, we are using some space in a house of a family that is collaborating. The same is true with the tower and antenna space. We are looking for support to pay the electric bill, and some expenses that the community radio needs. Sometimes we are left without electricity because blackouts happen very often.
We have created programs and announcements in Ixil about health, making people aware about COVID-19 prevention including recommendations regarding food, medicinal plants, the use of temazcal and other traditional knowledge. All the programs were produced with other organizations such as Fundenbase, the Indigenous Mayorship of Nebaj, Ixil University, and the Tiichajil Tenam Radio. Currently our young volunteers are unable to get to the radio due to the preventative measures.
We have already been contacted by other organizations, who send us their audio messages to be announced on the radio in exchange for a small fee. We have a long way ahead of us and we need more support but we are sure that our communities will help us because Radio Tiichajil Tenam is a radio station belonging to the voices of the Ixil communities.
We want to recognize and thank WACC and Cultural Survival who gave us their support, accompaniment, their mentorship, and cheered us on when our hardships grew bigger. We prevailed together. We have all grown with this marvelous project.
-- By Elena Brito Herrera (Ixil) is part of the Q’imb’al Association in Nebaj, Quiche, Guatemala.