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New Bolivians on the dial:
Radio Yura and Radio Mallku

by Mika Mäkeläinen

New Bolivian shortwave stations are rare; and Bolivians which verify reception reports are even fewer. In this respect some 60-meter-band novelties are welcome exceptions; Radio Yura and Radio Mallku have even bothered to respond to some of their international listeners. Both are stations with a mission - and much of their programming is in the indigenous quechua language.

Radio Yura appeared on shortwaves in spring 2000. The nominal frequency is given as 4715 kHz, but the station has been heard on approximately 4716.76 kHz. In comparison with many other Bolivian stations, the deviation is minimal.

I picked up the station for the first time on Sunday, April 30th, with an extended live transmission from some local fiesta. I listened to the station from 2300 UTC for about three and a half hours, until the signal faded out because of sunrise in Finland. During all this time, only a few announcements were given from the studio.

Radio Yura is located in the town of Yura, Provincia Antonio Quijarro, Departamento de Potosí. The project to set up the radio station was launched five years ago by a Catholic TV station Canal 18 UHF, explains Rolando Cueto, journalist and director of the TV station.

First they were able to get an AM transmitter with a power of 2.5 kilowatts on the frequency of 1200 kHz. The station has not been listed in the WRTH. Over the years, the transmitter deteriorated and they decided to replace it with a 1-kilowatt shortwave transmitter. The shortwave equipment was installed in the end of March 2000, says Cueto.

The radio station is dedicated to preserving what is left of the original culture before Spanish conquistadores. According to Cueto, the original culture has practically disappeared in parts of the Bolivian altiplano, but appears almost intact in the region of Yura.

A special feature of this culture is an organizational form called the ayllu. The station is catering to the needs of the local population and thus uses the slogan La Voz de los Ayllus.

But yes, listening to the radio is one-way communication. DXers need to get their voice heard as well... luckily, the mail service operates in this remote region, and you don't need any detailed street address to get your reports delivered. More surprisingly, the station also has access to the Internet, and verie-signer Rolando Cueto replied to me by e-mail. Poor Cueto - now his mailbox is destined to be flooded, hopefully not only with uninteresting QSL requests.

Radio Mallku,
the voice of peasants

I picked up Radio Mallku in November 1999 on the LEM132 DXpedition. Transmitting on 4796.48 kHz (the official frequency being 4795 kHz), Radio Mallku was booming after 2300 UTC. I heard their programs titled Revista Matinal and Sirena Laboral. The station signs off at around 8 p.m. local time or midnight UTC. On Sundays programming lasts until 10 p.m.

Map of Bolivia
Salar de Uyuni, a huge salt plateau, is the biggest attraction of the region.

Mallku is an indigenous word and means cóndor. The station was founded four years ago under the name of Radio A.N.D.E.S, but was legalized only in September 1999 under its present name. Perhaps the illegality of the operation was one reason why less verifications from that period were received - at least I didn't get a reply back then.

Aside from the mountain range, A.N.D.E.S. referred to the initials of the five provinces in the area: Antonio Quijarro, Nor Lipez, Daniel Campos, Enrique Baldiviezo and Sud Lipez. However, authorities wouldn't allow the station to operate under the name Radio Andes, because it closely resembles Radio Los Andes, a Tarija radio station, thus forcing the station to find a new name.

Radio Mallku's postal address is Casilla No. 16, Uyuni, Potosí, Bolivia. My verification letter was written by Erwin Freddy Mamani Machaca, Jefe de Prensa y Programación. He referred to two different slogans, which may also be heard on the air: Voz de los Trabajadores Campesinos and La Voz del Altiplano Sud. The station is administered by Federación Regional Única de Trabajadores Campesinos del Altiplano Sud (FRUTCAS), which Freddy describes as the dueño of the radio station.

In April 2000, when Freddy wrote to me, the station employed only two people, but must be using quite a lot of freelance or voluntary workforce, as the station has five hours of programming each weekday, and nine and a half hours on Sundays.

In addition to the very informative verification letter, Freddy sent me a photo of Hotel de Sal located in the middle of Salar de Uyuni, a huge salt plateau. The 12.400-square-kilometer salt plateau is a major tourist attraction, Freddy says. The city Uyuni itself is an important railroad crossing, but otherwise the area is a neglected backyard of Bolivia where people are poor and climate is hostile.

(published on July 4th 2000)

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