Sunday, September 18, 2011

Mad love

Being interviewed by the media
during our protest in front of Congress
No, this is not an X or even and R-rated blog post. Sorry if I got your hopes up. But I am deeply, madly, passionately in love with the community radio movement. This reverie was inspired by just having received a phone call from one of the sweetest people on the entire planet, Julian Velasquez from Estereo Maya Princess Ixmucané, the community radio station in Momostenango.  I realize I am sounding like a teenager, but so be it. At least I'm not dotting my i's with little hearts (I'm sure there's an emoticon for that but thankfully I don't know it and don't have time to figure it out) and ending every sentence with multiple exclamation points.
Inside the station at Todos Santos Cuchumatán
Julian just called to say hello, to see how I was doing, and to wish me well. A few days ago my friend Oswaldo, who works at the radio station La Voz del Pueblo (the people's voice) in San Miguel Ixtahuacán, San Marcos, also called just to say hello. These calls are touching; sometimes I feel very isolated here in my casita (little house) in my little town, and I am warmed by my friends' gestures of caring. Also, these gestures are especially meaningful as nearly all of them use pre-paid phones, which means that they pay for airtime every time they make a call, and so calling me means expending scarce resources.
Oswaldo (l) and Noe (r) from La Voz del Pueblo
San Miguel Ixtahuacán, San Marcos
I fairly regularly chat via Facebook with Oswaldo, Noe (also from La Voz del Pueblo), folks from Radio Universitaria in San Marcos, and several of the people from Radio Ixchel in Sumpango, and more occasionally with the people from Xob'il Yol in Todos Santos. They are all deeply committed to their communities, deeply committed to the fight for freedom of expression, deeply committed to environmental and social justice issues... so what's not to love?  During this electoral season, we have exchanged information about what has been going on in our respective communities, bemoaned the results, discussed politics in general, tried to give each other some encouragement.
Nicolasa from Xob'il Yol (Todos Santos) protesting
for freedom of expression in front of the Congress
But what has been most important to me has been feeling as though I am part of a movement, and a community. Several of the photos that accompany this entry were taken during an action in front of the Congress of the Republic: we covered our mouths with black bands to symbolize the lack of freedom of expression, as the goal was to pressure Congress to pass a law granting legal status to community radio stations (we currently operate outside of the categories contained in existing legislation: many of us make a point of saying that we are not illegal, but a-legal). So, here are some compañeros and compañeras with whom I can go out into the streets and protest!

I am already making plans to come back here next year (you could have seen that one coming a mile away, right?), and to start working on a book about community radio (more about that later as we flesh the idea out; it will be done collaboratively, to the extent possible, with some of the leading figures in the community radio movement).  Additionally, they are all, each in his or her own way, beautiful human beings -- generous, caring, warm, eager to share and eager to make connections.  I am looking forward to making visits to several of these stations in the next months, to conduct some interviews and some participant observation.

So, Oswaldo, Nicolasa, Rosendo, Tino, Anselmo, Angelica, Julian, Noe, Valentín, Mario, Edvin, and others: love you deeply, love you madly!

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