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The Other Evangelist Stations of Guatemala

By Don Moore

A slightly edited version of this article was originally published in the June, 1988 issue of Monitoring Times magazine.

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TGN is not the only Evangelist radio station in Guatemala, - its just the easiest to hear. The two others, while tougher to pick up, are certainly not impossible. Neither station is actually owned by TGN and the Central American Mission, but both are affiliated with it and receive technical help from Wayne Berger, TGN's chief engineer.

A NEW STATION WITH A LONG HISTORY

Radio Buenas Nuevas, 4800 khz, which began broadcasting July 25, 1987 is the newest of the two. It is located in San Sebastian Huehuetenango, about thirty kilometers west of the departmental capital of Huehuetenango in western Guatemala. Missionary Bob Rice and his wife Donna moved there in December to take charge of the local mission complex, on behalf of the Central American Mission.

Radio Buenas Nuevas may be new, but the station has a long history. It started out more than twenty years ago as a recording studio for Mam language programs on TGN and Radio Maya de Barillas. Descendents of the Mayas, the Mams are one of Guatemala's four main Indian groups. Five years ago the Iglesia Evang‚lica Nacional Mam (the Mam Evangelist Church) decided to apply for a station license because they believe radio broadcasting is a sucessful method of evangelization. With only 15,000 members amoung the half-million Mam living in western Guatemala, the church is looking for converts. After a four year wait, the license was granted.

TGN HELPS OUT

To put the new station on the air TGN loaned its 250 watt back-up shortwave transmitter and helped erect a temporary dipole antenna on the side of a hill behind the station.

After getting the new station on the air, TGN's chief engineer Wayne Berger drove to Oklahoma and bought a junk one kilowatt Gates transmitter. Finding a well-used pickup truck at a bargain price, he used it to carry the transmitter south through Mexico. He made Radio Buenas Nuevas one of the cheapest radio stations in history, by selling the pickup truck in Guatemala City at a large enough profit to pay for both the transmitter and needed repair parts. After spending much of December rebuilding the transmitter at TGN's shop in Guatemala City, Wayne and Bob Rice trucked it out to San Sebastian for installation in late January. At the same time a new antenna tower was erected.

The station is only a small part of the mission, which also includes a health clinic and community education projects. More than a dozen buildings and houses cluster around the mission's compound. Station manager Israel Rodas Merida and announcers Gonzalo Lopez Ramirez & Andres Maldonado Lopez are the only three people employed by the station. They work in the recording studio is in one of the compound's smaller buildings, but are planning to add a new 'live' studio in an adjacent building soon. The recording studio is so heavily booked with producing programs for Radio Cultural and Radio Maya that it can only be used two hours a day for Radio Buenas Nuevas. Once the live studio is finished, Radio Buenas Nuevas' programming can be extended.

The compound is home to seven families, including those of the station manager, the two announcers, and missionary Bob Rice. Also there, but due to leave in March, 1988 was Dr. Tom Godfrey and family. A linguist, Tom was researching the local Mam dialect to revise the Mam translation of the Biblical book of Genesis. His four children not only spoke English and Spanish well, but were also learning Mam from their Indian playmates in this trilingual environment!

CENTRAL AMERICA'S REMOTEST STATION

The other smaller Evangelist station, Radio Maya de Barillas, in Barillas, is well established. In August, 1987 they celebrated their twenty-fifth anniversary with a marathon live eighteen hour music broadcast. It wasn't a 'drop in to say hello party'. "People came and stayed the whole time" according to Wayne Berger. Long time DXers may remember missionary Loran Veith of Harmony, Pennsylvania who ran Radio Maya and issued those all-important QSL cards in the early 1970s. Several years ago he moved to a job in a missionary school in Queretaro, Mexico and from there to missionary work in the states.

Since Loran left, the station has been run by the Canjobel Evangelist church. Descendents of the Mayas, the Canjobels are one of the approximately twenty smaller tribes in Guatemala. Radio Maya's programs are mainly in Canjobel, but some programs in other regional languages are broadcast as well. Radio Maya uses 3325 khz with one kilowatt during morning and evening hours, and 2360 khz with 250 kilowatts in the mornings only. While 3325 khz is reported regularly in North America, reports of 2360 khz are few and far between, although it was heard more frequently in the early 1970s.

Located in northern Huehuetenango department, Barillas is in one of the most remote areas of Guatemala,. Guatemalan maps show it as being at the very end of the road going into that region. Although only 120 kilometers from Huehuetenango, the road is so bad that the trip to Barillas takes twelve hours by fourwheel drive jeep or eighteen hours by local bus. Radio Maya is the most remote radio station in all of Central America. There are stations located in places harder to reach overland, e.g. Puerto Lempira, Honduras but those places have regularly scheduled air service.

QRM FROM 'I LOVE LUCY'

Although out of the way, cable television with WTBS and other satelite stations from the US has arrived in Barillas. An enterprising wealthy individual bought a satellite dish and a large roll of coaxial cable to hook up a local cable system. Installing the system, he ran one of his cables across the street from, and parallel to, the Radio Maya antenna feedline. Now Radio Maya can be heard on local TVs mixing with the I Love Lucy reruns. The cable company and some of its non-evangelist subscribers are complaining. The end result is anyone's guess!

GETTING QSLS

Radio Buenas Nuevas is currently well heard in North America from 1130-1230 and 0030-0130. Radio Maya de Barillas is best heard in the mornings just after its 1030 sign-on on 3325, and can occasionally be picked up in the evenings as well.

Both these stations verify reception reports by letter, although Radio Buenas Nuevas is planning to have QSL cards printed. Both stations are very interested in mail from overseas DXers, but between the poor local mail service and demands of day to day work at the stations it may take a follow-up or two to get a reply. Be sure to write your report in Spanish as no one at either station speaks English. Even though Bob Rice at Radio Buenas Nuevas is American, he does not directly work with the station and won't normally see the mail. The Spanish Language Lab, available from many shortwave dealers, makes Spanish reception reports a breeze even for people who don't speak a word of the langugage. If including return postage, make it unused Guatemalan stamps because IRCs are impossible to redeem in the outlying towns. For addresses Radio Buenas Nuevas/ San Sebastian Huehuetenango/ Huehuetenango/Guatemala and Radio Maya de Barillas/ Barillas/ Huehuetenango/ Guatemala will do the job.

NEW STATION COMING!

If you've already heard all these stations, Wayne Berger has good news. A new evangelist station is due on the air any day now. It will be located in San Cr¡stobal Verapaz near Cob n (home of the Catholic church's Radio Tezulutlan). The San Cr¡stobal station will be operated by the Kekchi Evangelist church & except for a few announcements in Spanish will broadcast exclusively in Kekchi. Some details have not yet been finalized, but it looks like the station will be called Radio Kekchi and transmit on 4845 khz. One thing that is certain is that the power will be five kilowatts because they've already bought the transmitter! Hopefully once this station gets on the air they're be as freindly and easy to verify as the rest of Guatemala's shortwave stations. So if you hear them, drop them a line. Radio Kekchi/ San Cr¡stobal Verapaz/ Alta Verapaz/ Guatemala is probably all the address needed since its not a very big town!


1996 Addendum: Radio Buenas Nuevas is currently easy to hear in North America on 4800 either in the morning after they sign-on or in the evening. They now stay on much later than the 0130 sign-off mentioned about. Radio Maya is also easy to hear on 3325 kHz in either the evening or morning, but their 2360 frequency is much more difficult. Radio Kekchi came on the air shortly after this article was published. However, they have been somewhat irregular, often not using shortwave for months at a time. As I put this together in January, 1996, Radio Kekchi is on the air. Guatemala's newest Evangelical shortwave station is Radio Cultural Coatan on 4780, located in the town of Coatan, north of Huehuetenango. This station came on in the Fall of 1994.

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This article is copyright 1988 by Don Moore. It may not be printed in any publication without written permission. Permission is granted for all interested readers to share and pass on the ASCII text file of this article or to print it out for personal use. In such case, your comments on the article would be appreciated.

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