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Radio Huayacocotla

By Carl Huffaker

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The following item is taken from various pages of the book Carl Huffaker's Latin Notebooks as originally published by SPEEDX. This book is a collection of Carl's columns in the SPEEDX magazine between 1986 and 1991. It is placed here with permission of SPEEDX.

JUNE 1988

Back in May, 1966, Hank Bennett, writing in Popular Electronics featured Mexico's new mystery station, Radio Huayacocotla, which had suddenly appeared on 2390 kHz. Three Newark News Radio Club members concentrated on the station and were able to determine that it was indeed "Radio Huayacocotla" XEJNOP, tied in with the Sistema Educativo Radiofonica de Mexico, probably operating from a village of the same name, and that reception reports were returned because the Mexican Postal Service could not locate the station.

When I first visited the station in 1979, they were using the call XEJN-OC (the OC for Onda Corta), Huayacocotla had a mail service, and the station address was direction conocido. Takayuki Inoue (Japan) and Christian Zetti (Austria) visited the station in 1985. There is an excellent profile by Takayuki in Radio Nuevo Mundo's LA-DXing. At that time, the station had applied for a MW frequency and planned to leave 120 meters. This was eventually refused and the station remains on 2390. Administration of the station is by the Universidad Ibroamericana, probably nominal as no one at the station has ever referred to this and only the WRTH has the relationship listed.

There is considerable confusion as to the exact history of the station. They did start operating from Huayacocotla, Veracruz in 1966. The call given in Hank Bennett's report was probably an error due to the close-sounding P and C sounds in Spanish. Takayuki states that the name "Radio Huayacocotla" came into use with the change in a governing body in 1973, but the 1966 report refutes this.

Now for some speculation: In the past, although I understand that they have made considerable effort to correct this, the WRTH has operated on the policy that old information is better than no information. In the case of Latin American officials who feel that internal administrative information is not public property outside the country, the information becomes quite dated. As late as 1971, the WRTH listed two educational stations operating from Sisoguichi, Chihuahua. One, XESE on 2380 kHz, was under the Secretariat of Educacion, and the other, XEUMT on 5960 kHz, was affiliated with the Universidad lberoamericana. Remembering those years in Mexico when the paperwork lagged far behind the project, it's possible that these two stations were combined in 1966 to form Radio Huayacocotla. Does any one have an old QSL from either of the Sisoguichi stations?

Today, Huayacocotla remains a quiet valley, rich in agriculture, forests, and minerals, far from the economic chaos of the capital and the rest of the republic. It's a pleasant place, and if you can withstand the winding mountain roads and suicidal bus drivers, well worth visiting. The station closes mid-day for a long lunch hour, but the excellent local food and rich Veracruz coffee make the wait worthwhile.

For those visiting by radio, their mail address is:
Radio Huayacocotla Apartado Postal 13 92600 Huayacocotla Veracruz Mexico

It's June, not the best month for DX with the surnmer static building towards its maximum, but with a little patience and persistence, you can always find those few nights when you copy a new one through the QRN. June, too, starts vacations for many. Those who wander down Mexico way are always welcome here at the shack.

MARCH 1989

"The ghostdance has been blotted from the map. Call as you will, those dancers will not come to tear their breasts upon the bloody strap, mute-visaged to the passion of the drum..."

Yet it does reappear, in a different form and farther to the south, the "being Indian," the resistance to European culture, and somehow, mixed with Christianity, and radio. I'm not being alarmist, for it's a revolution doomed to failure by its own goals. And there is no shade of religious partiality, for it appears that other churches are taking the same blundering steps. It's a movement that exists, secretly, but it does help explain the almost schizophrenic programming of the Central American religious stations.

I'd been monitoring Guatemala, the religious stations. There, as a pattern, the musical programs with their long lists of dedications, the Indian-language religious teaching heavy with Spanish vocabulary, the campesino news always a bit to the left, and the official news blocks that always sounded a bit incongruent on the frequency. I couldn't put my finger on it, and it bothered me. But the morning was bright, I was restless, so I drove to Huayacocotla.

I arrived at the station before 15:00. Gemma, the YL DJ on the 15:00 to 19:00 time segment, let me in. We talked DX and drank coffee--she makes good coffee--while she fired up the transmitter and got the station on the air. They do start at half-power for the first few minutes of each transmission. I noticed the lights flickered and dimmed. "Oh, that," she explained, "that is the mill across the street where they grind flour for tortillas. When they start the motor, the transmitter goes down."

The station had progressed since my last visit, new offices downstairs, new offices, workrooms, and conference rooms upstairs all done in the attractive wood of the Mexican mountains. And they're building an audience, for in one workroom, I saw detailed instructions for a project of modifying 400 receivers to tune to 120 meters.

I asked about the large number of dedications on her program. She explained that they were current as they received between 35 and 40 listener's letters every day. With less than that number of DX reports for a season, the SWL/DXer ratio becomes apparent, hardly that that the international broadcasters cry about at conventions. We talked of the history of the station. She'd only been there three years, but her enthusiasm for the present management was apparent.

The station is operated by "Fomento," a local organization dedicated to economic and social development of the area. My infrequent visits confirm that this is one of the few areas in the Republic where this development is a continuing reality. Fomento is headed by the local priest which explains the acceptance of Catholicism as a cultural reality, and the station's bending Mexico's anti-clerical and broadcast laws. There seemed, too, an organization "ALER" involved. I managed to pick up some literature, politely and with permission, of course. This gave me an insight into the confused history of the station. It starts in Ecuador.

When Monsenor Leonidas Proaho was ordained as a priest, he dedicated his life to the poor, but when he was ordained as Archbishop of Riobamba in 1954, the dedication was redefined as to the Indians. He was an active activist, founded many organizations within and without the church, was involved in demonstrations, land reform, and liberation theology. Just before he died in 1988, he arranged a commemoration for 500 years of Indian resistance, which he described as resistance against domination by Spain, by various governments, and by American imperialism. He wrote about radio as a means of resistance: "The programs that our radio launch into space are, first, that the people be well informed, and second, that we know who is with us, who is fighting...." And about his revolutionary goal: "Little by little, the Latin American people are going to realize that we're not distinct countries. We're going to realize that we're part of one great country, Latin America."

Monsenor Leonidas founded Escuelas Radiofonicas de Ecuador in 1962. Shortly thereafter, Radio Huayacocotla was established as Escuelas Radiofonicas de Mexico, and Escuelas Radiofonicas were established in several Latin American countries. Then followed a period of education by radio, and the creation of several organizations whose professed aim was the production of campesino leaders. In 1973, operation of Radio Huayacocotla was moved to Fornento because of "internal conflicts." Around this time an advisory organization, Asociacion Latinoamericana de Educacion Radiofonica (ALER) was formed in Ecuador. The fifth ALER Assembly was held in Guatemala in 1983 soon after La Voz de Atlitlan returned to the air.

I was alone when I walked along the hall upstairs. In one of the offices, I noticed a map. It was well done in brightly colored wood. The title was the country "Latin America." The old political boundaries were there, but unnamed. There were no cities, just the names of radio stations and those long letter abbreviations that the Latins use for organizational names. The "Gran Patria" had the Rio Grande for its northern border, but the the east, west and south, it was simply ocean.

The ALER calendar marks religious holidays, and on some dates, evidently birthdays, the names of radio stations and organizations. Some are familiar on shortwave: 1/15 R Tezulutlan, Guatemala; 3/19 Escuelas Radiofonicas, Ecuador; 3/20 R Mam, Guatemala; 4/4 LV de la Selva, Peru; 5/13 R Onda Azul, Peru; 8/4 R Chortis, Guatemala; 8/25 L V de Atlitlan, Guatemala; 9/8 R Occidente, Venezuela; 10/25 R Huayacocot1a, Mexico; 11/21 L V Nahuala, Guatemala; 12/25 R Juan XXIII, Bolivia. There'll be no Gran Patria, an impossible dream, but it has established a pattern for evangelization and radio that even the new stations follow because it's there.

NOVEMBER 1989

During the last days of September 1989, Huayacocotla hosted the "First International Forum on Human Right of the Indigenous Peoples." It was a success, for the next Saturday, "Campesino News," (00:00 UTC Sundays,) carried a full report.

I've never met the YL announcer on that program, but. I suspect that she's a school teacher, primary grades. She has that characteristic of talking down smothered with enthusiasm and a logic that is utterly charming and feminine. The immediate aim of the movement, she said, was preparation for the massive Indian demonstration in 1992 to celebrate 500 years of "resistance" against the European invasion of America. Just a year and a month after his death, Archbishop Proano's impossible dream was moving again. Showing more courage, and certainly less caution than I would, Concepcion listed the cooperating organizations throughout the Mexican Republic with a background commentary or two on each. It approached that territory where angels fear landinines, so I determined to visit the studio during the next broadcast.

The following Thursday my determination was increased by a brief news item on the radio from Veracruz. The Department of Anthropology, a federal agency that contains the equivalent of our Department of Indian Affairs, had labeled the leaders of the movement as "irresponsible." Friday, Radio Huaya was off the air. I left for Huayacocotla early the next morning.

It was quiet when I arrived. A few soldiers loafed in front of the garrison, others were in the street repairing their cars, I but most were at the edge of town playing soccer. Despite its growth, Huayacocotla still maintains the village plan in which the plaza is an expanded street. That day the plaza was neither full nor vacant, a normal Saturday morning. There was a Mass in the church, a wedding, so I wandered in. The priest, dark and with the sculptured face of an Indian, performed the ritual well, then added a few announcements on the demonstrations for peace during the coming month. There among the Indians, some barefooted but none the less magnificent in their colorful dress, and among the very young children wandering about oblivious of the importance of the occasion, I began to feel that I had arrived in rural Mexico.

I had a solitary lunch, doubly enjoyable because I ignored the dietary restrictions that the recent years have forced on me. Over my second cup of coffee, I looked at the little park in front of the cafe. "Little" is a literal description: it's somewhat less than 10 by 15 meters and contains a single monument, a lifesize painted statue of "The Mother." According to the plaque, it's a 1958 reconstruction of the original monument erected in the 1880's. It's Malinche nursing her first son, the symbol of Mexico's identity and pride in its mixed blood, her son by the Conquistador Cortez. This pride in racial roots will also climax in 1992, for Mexico has long celebrated Columbus Day as The Day of the Race and the discovery of America has come to symbolize that mixture. The term "campesino" which so many reporters use loosely refers to three distinct groups, the Indian campesino, the mixed-blood campesino, and the campesino essentially of European stock. The activists in each group attempt to increase their association through a common term, but they remain distinct groups, joining momentarily whenever the slogan seems appropriate.

It was almost broadcast time, so I walked down to the station. I'd left the car parked in front, they'd seen me in church, and they were expecting me. The manager and four campesinos were waiting. When I asked what had happened, they explained. The power company (federal) had wired double voltage into the building when repairing storm damage. The transmitter blew, the regulators were a fused mass, and they hadn't even opened up the covers to see what more damage existed. It was a gloomy scene there in the transmitter room, but the single remaining lightbulb had the brilliance of a photoflood. It was an awkward moment, like a funeral, when you never know quite what to say.

We walked to the hall. He patted a large packing case. "But this has just arrived and we're waiting for the engineer to come up from Tulancingo so we can open it up and start installation." It was a new transmitter, a Bauer, and a full kilowatt. There was also a new console, already unpacked, an elaborate job with eight channels. I tried to find out their source, but learned mothing more than that they'd been "a gift." So Radio Huayacocotla is off the air. They'll be back in "we hope, a month" which would make it the middle of November, but allow for Mexican time. They'll feed the same vertical antenna which has proven its efficiency with the old transmitter. There'll be test broadcasts, probably at 1 kw which they haven't "yet" received permission to use.

It was a long drive back, and slow through the fog, doubly slow as parts of the road had been washed out and were still under repair. It was, I know, coincidence, yet there remained a doubt, the sort of thing that makes the modern cloak and dagger novel. I couldn't let it go with a simple:"Radio Huayacocotla, 2390 kHz, temporarily off the air due to transmitter problems."

MARCH 1990

It's more than half past January, and Radio Huayacocotla is still limping along with its old transmitter. They were off the air for a few days last fall when the overvoltage took out the regulators, and the old transmitter was hastily repaired to keep them on the air while the new equipment was being installed. It took only a weekend to install the American ready-to-run package, and the new transmitter was there, waiting for someone to throw the switch. But nobody legally can until....

In Mexico, it's the station, as defined by specific equipment, that is licensed, and a new transmitter requires an on-site inspection and approval by the Secretariat of Goberacion's Commissiop on Radio and Television. Outside of La Hora Exacta's return to private ownership, which didn't involve a change in equipment, there have been no changes in Mexican shortwave under the present Commission, which is staggering under a workload of new TV stations, power increases, and repeaters, as well as an explosive growth in FM outlets. December came, with its month-long sequence of holidays when the government was reduced to a skeleton staff, and in January, all who worked during the holidays took vacations, so Radio Huayacocotla waits, looks longingly at the transmitter, and thinks, perhaps, there's only to throw the switch....

Politically, Huaya is a stepchild, and far from any favored treatment in the offices the Capitol. The station, that is, its equipment and license, is actually owned by the lber , American University, a private school that for decades has spearheaded the battle again a complete takeover by the government's "national" schools; and UNAM is a primary pow in the RTV Commission. Huayacocotla is giving all-out support to the "500 Years Resistance" (to the Spanish invasion) movement, while Ibero is part of that invasion on a university level. At Huaya, they say that the license for the new transmitter is "en trdmite." It's a word that has a special meaning in Mexico.

I'll stop in there next month during Carnival. There's Carnival in Huayacocotla. I wonder what it'll be like so far from the sea, perhaps a bit more quiet than New Orleans, Veracruz, Rio, and Mazatlan. But I was younger then.

Don't forget Carnival this year. Look for special broadcasts from most Brasilians, including the riverports. In Veracruz, it's a Cuban festival; the Mexican Navy even provides a special ship for that delegation in recognition of the African cultural roots. And each of the Eastern-bloc countries sends delegations, usually headed by their Ambassador. This year's newscasts and interviews from XEU will reflect the situation in both Europe and Central America.

DECEMBER 1990

If you'd tuned to 2390 kHz today, you'd have heard "Radio Huayacocotla, 25 years service to the community," "Radio Huayacocotla, 25 years in the fight for a more just world," or, perhaps, "This is a special broadcast from 6:00 AM to 7:00 PM to celebrate our 25th anniversary." And if you'd walked down the street in Huayacocotla, you could have heard it not only on your radio but from a speaker propped up in front of an open window at the station. The place was deserted. The DJ was in the cabana, at the mike or spinning discs, and at the same time taking care of two pre-school-age girls (daughters? sisters? cousins? I never can keep the generations straight in Mexico). I was in the record library with the manager, an attractive young lady who's been around the stands for several years now. Occasionally the phone would ring: A dedication, and,tpngratulations on the anniversary. She'd make a note of the names, find the record, and pass them through the door to the DJ at the mike. It was a tight schedule, and they ran most of the day without a backlog. But it was a relaxed operation, with no delays or fills discernable.

But being there in the record/tape library gave me a chance to update some of the things I've written in the past. The "500 Years of Resistance" movement is still alive; I saw their placards on the TV during the Juan Carlos visit to Chile. But there was a blank area on the shelf labeled "500 Years." "What happened here?" I asked.

"ALER hasn't sent us much recently," she answered without too much thought, as she was trying to find the right combination of buttons on the telephone recorder.

"I haven't heard much from Riobamba." (I was referring to Escuelas Radiofonicas.) XXX came back from Riobamba a year and a half ago," she answered in a tone that indicated finality.

I went to the shelf labeled "German Church." These-are discs of religious soap operas in Spanish. There was nothing new enough not to have the envelope discolored. "And no more of these from ALER?" I suggested. She nodded confirmation. "But I thought Radio Tezulutldn announced they were to handle them?" I questioned. She knew nothing about it. There is little doubt that ALER, the stepchild of UNESCO, has expired in its role as a revolutionary force.

In place of ALER, and I didn't have the courage to discuss it because of my recent activities, is a series of campesino programs aired during the last broadcast hour each day: "Radio Cultural," with special programs on human rights, legal rights, and ejido property rights, and some "how to" instructions on agriculture. Some, if not all, are produced by or in conjunction with Radio Educacion in Mexico.

Despite its license as an educational station and its ownership by a "university," Radio Huayacocotla is now a religious station, but, being more liberation than Vatican, is certainly not evangelistic. And Gerrinia--I mentioned her long ago--went to a seminary for special training and "has been assigned to another project."

FEBRUARY 1991

During the last days of November, Radio Huayacocotla was off the air. The storm of the 28th took out the powerline to that part of the state, and service wasn't restored until the afternoon of the 1st. La Voz de Atitlan was on the frequency, 2390 kHz, with its regular schedule, and playing enough marimba music to be easily identified. At present, the service isn't too good, as the transmitter keeps dropping out whenever the mill across the street starts to grind corn for tortillas. But the YL DJ always gets the rig back on the air after a few minutes, and, after a brief "se fue la luz," gets back to the program.

The station still champions the campesinos, but the causes have faded. ALER has become less active: A cutback in UNESCO funds. The "500 Years of Resistance" movement effectively ended when the Pope commemorated the meeting of the two worlds and the Christianization of the new. The central government has taken control of the women's rights movement and federalized it away from local control. There are still "caminantes" marching towards Mexico, but they're not on their way to confront the President, they're pilgrims on their way to commemorate the Virgin of Guadelupe and, this year for the first time, San Juan Diego. The activists in Radio Huayacocotla are active only in the area of human rights.

They had a cause. A year ago, in a dispute involving campesino expansion, two landholders were killed. Seven campesinos from the Huayacocotla area were charged with complicity and arrested. Under Mexico's Napoleonic law, they were imprisoned while a judge investigated the case to determine what crimes, if any, had been committed. It took a year, but no "delito" was proven, and the seven were released. They returned to Huayacocotla in triumph; the town gathered in the plaza to greet them and the church bells rang continuously. The station was off the air, but the staff attended with their recorders.

When Huayacocotla did get back on the air, they broadcast one of the tapes. It was an interview, and it surprised me, both because of its content and because the station had selected it for broadcast. The reporter was biased and attempting to document a human rights violation. The campesino, one of the seven, insisted that they'd been well-treated in prison, with food, quarters, medicine, and, although he didn't mention it, connubial visits. When asked if he'd lost a year by being accused, he said no, he'd learned Indian craftwork while in prison and was no longer enslaved to the agriculture of the ejido.

As the situation in the huasteca quiets, the human rights groups turn their attentions to the Indians in Oaxaca and farther south. This takes it rapidly beyond the range of Radio Huayacocotla, for it's an area where La Voz de Atlitlan dominates the frequency. One can only speculate where their attention will turn next.

The afternoon program is called "Ensalada," which means salad or, more properly in this context, mixed salad. Previously, the station broadcast blocs of music, "musica de la huasteca," "musica romantica," "muisica tropical," etc. It was easy to log the type of music, for the DJ always provided that information. But now the YL DJ is introducing terms like "medía romántica," "poquita tropical," "poquita romántica," "song huasteco," and I'm confused!

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