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Spreading hope

It’s five o’clock in the morning when Lourdes gets up to tidy up her house and prepare the breakfast tortillas for her husband her eleven-year old son. Her work as radio journalist begins at eight.
Patricia Galicia Patricia Galicia Patricia Galicia

Lourdes Tzoc Ramírez is a woman of 31 years. She lives in a mountain village near Nahualá in Guatemala, about 190 kilometres from the capital city. Like most people in the region, Lourdes is an Indígena. She wears colourful traditional clothes and speaks K’iche, a Maya language.

Lourdes works for Stereo Nahualá, a tri-lingual radio station that broadcasts in K’iche, Kaqchikel and Spanish with a focus on cultural and educational matters. The Nahualá region is very poor. Many people risk their lives in attempts to migrate to the USA. Many do not speak Spanish. Stereo Nahualá is their window on the world and their neighbouring villages. 

Lourdes is in charge of the afternoon show “A todo ritmo”. The target group are young people. As the host, she interviews students, parents and village leaders, discussing topics such as drugs, jobs, self-esteem or love. She also contributes to the show “Mujer fuente de sabiduría” (Woman – source of knowledge), which focuses on women’s rights and opportunities for women’s involvement in public affairs. Lourdes finds relevant information on the internet.

Lourdes starts her working day by visiting the local health centre, the school and the mayor’s office to gather news. She even works on some weekends. To report from village festivities or assemblies, she walks long distances with a heavy load. She sets up the antenna, operates the equipment and interviews people.

In Guatemala, men tend to dominate the airwaves. Lourdes is one of only few women who have been staff employed at Stereo Nahualá for several years. She was originally trained as a bilingual elementary school teacher (K’iche – Spanish).  In 2005, she took part in a radio-journalism course. In the meantime, she says, broadcasting has become her “second home”.

Lourdes is a peer educator. She teaches colleagues how to design blogs and how to post news and podcasts on the radio website. “Whenever I hear about an interesting new technology, I teach myself how to use it and then pass that knowledge on to our team,” she reports. Moreover, she encourages other women to become active – for instance in the local church’s radio commission. “The dominant macho culture here suggests that women have nothing to contribute,” Lourdes says, “but I know that women can achieve a lot. One way to overcome discrimination is to keep on surpassing our expectations.”

At noon, Lourdes hurries home to prepare lunch for her son. And in the evening, after long working hours, she checks his homework and prepares things for the next day. “I am glad to have this radio job,” she says, “it allows me to support our community with my knowledge and my abilities.”


Patricia Galicia is a radio journalist based in Guatemala City.

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