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November 25, 2020

Radio Sensunat: Broadcasting to Revitalize the Nahuat Language in El Salvador

En español.

By Orfy Arévalo

The municipality of Santo Domingo de Guzmán, in Sonsonate, western El Salvador, is characterized by having a majority Nahuat-speaking population. This municipality has been able to keep their language alive, as it was not hit with the repression suffered by the other municipalities of Sonsonate, where whole communities were exterminated in 1932. Today, Santo Domingo operates a community radio station, Radio Sensunat, promoting Indigenous Nahuatl Pipil culture and language. Radio Sensunat is part of the Participative Radiodifusión Association of El Salvador (ARPAS) and is a tool for alternative communication to promote Indigenous Peoples’ rights and cultures.

The Nahuatl Pipil language now has the attention of the communities themselves and new generations are learning. Nahuatl cribs are places that have been created by Nahuat-speaking teachers as an initiative where the language is taught to boys and girls in the municipality. However, the leaders and Nahuat speakers constantly fight to ensure intergenerational transmission of knowledge. 

Mateo Rafael Latín Cuahuit, mayor of the ancestral authorities represents the Indigenous governing body of Izalco made up of mayordomos and mayordomas, has expressed satisfaction in being able to have a communication tool, like Radio Sensunat, where locals can express their thoughts and feelings, and where  the issues most relevant to their communities are covered. Izalco is recognized for its El Llanito heritage and sacred site, a place where the remains of many ancestors rest. This municipality is unique as it is the only one in the country that has an ancestral Indigenous government. “For us, this fight against discrimination and stereotypes has not been easy, but we hold firm to the legacy that our ancestors left us. We thank the creator and shaper of the universe, because we have a means of communication that allows us to express ourselves and it supports us in the fight to defend our rights,” says Mateo Rafael Latín Cuahuit.


Another of the municipalities that continues its fight to claim their rights is Nahuizalco. Community members are implementing projects to promote the Nahuat language through Nahuatl schools, in which young children and older adults participate.  “We, Indigenous leaders, are working to revitalize our identity, and it is good that these projects support us to learn about our origins. We are grateful to Radio Sensunat because it has raised awareness of our culture and promotes issues relevant to us,” says Nicolás Sánchez, leader of the Movement for Indigenous Unification of Nahuizalco (MUINA).

Since its inception, the Radio Sensunat has had a strategic alliance with Indigenous communities and has worked to make issues of concern to the community visible. One demand of locals is that they are not seen as folklore but recognized as a group with rights who deserve respect for their ancestral culture. Radio Sensunat has supported this demand.

This year, Radio Sensunat strengthened its relationship with the Indigenous communities of the area through the execution of a program, “Let's Talk About Ours,” which was developed with the support of Cultural Survival’s Community Media Grants Program. The station has supported Nahuat Pipil Peoples in the defense, revitalization, and maintenance of their culture and language. Through radio, the Nahuat language is transmitted and ancestral knowledge is transferred to younger generations so they can be empowered by their roots despite the discrimination and exclusion they face.