Saturday, September 1, 2012

Community radio and the struggle for indigenous rights

That's the theme of a meeting to which I was invited today in Xela. This is a meeting organized by the Consejo de Pueblos del Occidente, the Council of Western Peoples, a regional indigenous rights organization. The CPO has been the major force behind the community consultations about mining, just to place it on the political map a little bit. 

Tino, one of my compañeros from the community radio movement and the founder of the Asociación Mujb'ab Lyol, who got his start in the clandestine radio movement during the armed struggle, sent me the invitation, which was an invitation to representatives from different community radio stations across the country. Although I do not formally represent a radio station, I wanted to attend and so I wrote to the CPO and explained who I was, to make sure it was okay for me to attend, and received a positive reply. Later I spoke to the people in the Asociación Ixmukané and Radio Ixmukané to see if any of them were going to come to represent that radio station, but no one was available. The two coordinators of Radio Ixmukané are both taking university classes on Saturdays, which has prevented them from participating in the workshops for community radio stations, and meant that neither could come today. They did make some phone calls, and for a moment it seemed as though someone from the Youth Network (Red de Jóvenes) might be able to come IF I were able to swing by and pick him up (adding an hour to my trip), but then he wouldn't make a commitment, so I agreed that I would share the information that I received today with the compañeras.

And so, saying an early goodbye to Quiché, I set off this morning. Last night was my last night with my friends Sandra  and Catarino, and I also swept into the town to visit another friend -- who has nothing whatsoever to do with my research, but is a friend nonetheless. She works at the local health center in Chinique and is one of the few Ladina/Ladino friends I have in Guatemala -- in the sense of an intimate friendship.  Not that I have tried to not befriend Ladinos/Ladinas, but I haven't had a lot of contact outside of professional contacts -- many of whom I also consider friends although we don't get to see each other much.  She is the only Ladina from up here in the highlands with whom I have an intimate friendship - intimate in the sense that we have been inside each other's houses, gone out dancing, talked about our intimate lives.  I was extremely tired and so just stayed for a little while, and then went back home to get some sleep before getting up around 5 to head to Xela.

The meeting was called for 9, but I had a feeling it wasn't going to start on time (just based on past experience with meetings here), and so I made a few stops along the way. A friend in New Bedford had asked me to buy some hand looms and since Saturday is market day in Chiché, I stopped in the market to see if I could find someone selling a loom. No luck. I also wanted to purchase some chiles cobaneros -- a particular kind of dried chile that has a special flavor that I adore. Nothing available in the U.S. tastes exactly like it. I bought 3/4 of a pound -- some for me, some to share with friends. And I also wanted to get a couple of the red handwoven belts that men wear. Today, they are mostly worn by Maya priests in ceremonies, but in some areas of Quiché where men still wear the traditional outfit of white cotton shirts and pants, the red belt is part of the outfit.  Finally, I decided to get a handwoven servilleta (all purpose cloth) for my friend Sandra. There is no real way to compensate my friends for their hospitality. They won't accept payment as such for my staying with them, and so I try to purchase food, staple items like oil and soap, and help out by giving them rides. I bring some small gifts from the U.S. (usually clothing for the children).  

I made the trip to Xela faster than I ever have: about an hour and 35 minutes from Santa Cruz to the Centro de Capacitación where the activity was being held.

Now we are discussing the importance of the radios in the struggle. Tino gave a sharp analysis of the current conjuncture and the attacks on community radio. Now some named Eliseo, from one of the Mam councils from San Marcos, is talking very energetically about the necessity of taking up the struggle that was started by the abuelos and abuelas. "They gave their lives, to fertilize the soil, and now it is our responsibilities." I am recording this talk, because it is impossible to catch the passion and force of his language.

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