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Radio Sumpul: WERU's Sister Station in El Salvador

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Since 2005, volunteers and staff from WERU have been working with counterparts at Radio Sumpul, a community radio station in Chalatenango, El Salvador to build a relationship for the exchange of information and ideas and for experiencing crosscultural community radio solidarity.

Radio Sampul is a community radio station located in Guarjilla, El Salvador, in the northern province of Chalatenango. Radio Sumpul is a twelve year-old station that was started after the Salvadoran civil war (1980 – 1992), along with many other community radio stations around the country, to broadcast social and political issues and music relevant to people at the local level. While struggling to gain legal status in the mid ‘90s, all community stations were forcibly shut down by the government, except for Radio Sumpul, which resisted!

In June 2008, WERU hosted two central members of Radio Sumpul. Blanca Miriam Ayala Mejia and Maria Rosa Dubon Orellana. Miriam received her communications training during the civil war as a guerilla radio operator and is an elected representative to the CCR. Rosa helped establish Radio Sumpul as an alternative news source and urgent alert system to mobilize against the new incursion of gold mining activity in the area and is the current administrator of Radio Sumpul.  WERU staff and volunteers have also travelled to El Salvador and visited Radio Sumpul.

With assistance from the U.S.-El Salvador Sister Cities Network, PICA and MOFGA, WERU collaborates with Radio Sumpul to cover important issues, promote cultural awareness and support delegations of people from Maine and Chalatenango to visit each other and strengthen sistering relationships. 

The US-El Salvador Sister Cities Network is an organization started during the El Salvador civil war in the 1980's to combat human rights atrocities. The organization has evolved into a conduit of solidarity between communities in the US and organized rural communities in El Salvador. Today this “sistering” experience focuses on important issues such as: the damaging effects of free trade policies and related neoliberal initiatives, small-scale cooperative economic projects, and sharing community organizing models.

Bangor, Maine has had a long time sistering relationship with the village of Carasque, in the northern department of Chalatenago, through the organization Peace through Inter-American Community Action (PICA). The Maine Organic Farmers’ and Gardeners’ Association (MOFGA) now has an organizational sistering with CORDES, the grassroots development arm of the Chalatenango’s organized rural association known as CCR. Many delegations from Maine have visited communities and organizations in El Salvador, focusing on different issues. Maine has on occasion hosted Salvadoran visitors as well.

Radio Sumpul programming, when not off the air due to technical problems, broadcasts daily from 5 am to 9 pm. A typical day of programming starts off with Ranchera music, morning announcements (such as public events, patron saint festivals, community assemblies and birthdays) from 6:30 to 7 am, followed by a mix of different Latin music styles: Grupera, Merengue, Bachata, and Tropical music, played in blocks until 11:40 am when they wrap up the hour for more announcements. Between noon and 5:30 they have “Hits from Yesterday”, then they take requests, have a children’s hour, folk music and then eclectic music. News is from 5:30 to 6:30 pm followed by Reggae Techno Youth Music until 9 pm.

Radio Sumpul is also part of the region known as Chalatenango and is part of the organized rural development association. Every December they have a community wide festival to celebrate their radio anniversary.

Operating a Community Radio Station in rural El Salvador presents many challenges, including a variety of technical problems that must be overcome in order to serve the people. Radio Sumpul is part of a social movement working to empower rural people and all Salvadorans struggling against economic, environmental, cultural and political oppression, and it is difficult to provide the most timely national news and information to its community without such up to date technology.

We invite listeners to help contribute to future Radio Sumpul needs by sending checks to: WERU, P.O. Box 170, East Orland, ME 04431, with “Attn. Radio Sumpul” on the envelope and in the memo line of the check.


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