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Don Moore's Honduran Journal

Part Two


Radio in Tegucigalpa

I lived in Tegucigalpa for three months, and was frequently there on Peace Corps business, or just to pass a weekend in the big city. I am ashamed to say it, but I only once visited HRVC, La Voz Evangelica, the easiest Honduran SWer. It was only a few blocks from the center of town, near the Comayaguela market, and I often passed near it. But I always planned another visit "next time." The one time I stopped by I talked to Cindy Madraiga, the only English speaking staff member. HRVC was originally founded by American Baptist missionaries, although since then operation has been handed over to Honduran Baptists. Cindy had been an American missionary when she met and married her Honduran Baptist husband and then became the station's bilingual secretary. The station's one hour of English a week is on Sunday nights (Monday 0300 GMT), always a prerecorded program from the US. Getting lots of receptions reports, the station had piles of IRCs that I was able to buy at cost. It was enough to last me the rest of my stay in Honduras. Usually they sent the IRCs back to the US to be redeemed. About four or five reports a week are received by the station, all of them verified with a QSL card. La Voz Evangelica is one of the easiest Central American stations to hear and QSL. One curious fact is that the station studios are on the ground floor and the offices upstairs, which is an unusual arrangement.

The first Honduran radio station I visited was Radio Panamericana. One Friday during Peace Corps training I actually had a free afternoon, my only one. So I ran home, picked up my camera, and headed across the bridge into the Comayaguela neighborhood I had seen their sign in. I soon found myself discussing a little about the station and looking at reports with the young chief engineer, Oscar Andino (who speaks excellent English). As he explained, the majority of their reports come from the Northeast and Midwestern USA and Eastern Canada. A few others trickle in from the west coast of North America and Europe. On his desk was a cassette report from an Ohio DXer made on February 24, 1982, just twenty-three days previous. The reply, all ready to go and in the addressed envelope, was sitting beside it. Radio Panamericana is probably the best heard Honduran station on medium wave, by DXers. They now verify by letter, but Oscar did hunt up an old QSL card for me.

The small station office is located in Comayaguela, about ten blocks from the presidential palace. Six rooms and a small secluded patio contain the studios of Radio Panamericana, sister station Radio Comayaguela, as well as the stations' offices and a recording studio. They have been located in this site since 1979, having previously been in a building off Parque Central in downtown Tegus. Radio Comayaguela was founded in 1950 and Radio Panamericana in 1964. In the studios they have a variety of new turntables, recorders, and mixers, mainly Sony, Akai, and Sansui. Apparently the restocked their equipment when they moved. Everything was new and in excellent shape.

Radio Comayaguela broadcasts on 740 khz with 1 kilowatt, playing ranchera, Latin American, and light pop music. Radio Panamericana is unique in Tegucigalpa. It plays nothing but easy listening instrumental music. There are no vocal songs, and no news. The only interruptions of any kind are very infrequent IDs and ads. Radio Panamericana operates on 945 khz with 2.5 kw and 96.0 MHz FM with one kilowatt. All transmitter equipment for both stations is Collins and is located on a hilltop outside town, along with their 72 meter high tower. Both stations transmit 1200-0600 GMT daily. Along with chief engineer Oscar Andino, I also had a talk with owner and founder Humberto Andino. If ever in Tegus, look for their neon sign featuring a large cactus!

La Voz de Honduras

The main station in Honduras is HRN, La Voz de Honduras. It is not, as one would assume, government owned. It is however, the oldest and best established commercial station in the country. It serves as a quasi-official voice of the government/ruling class, and as such is more important than the government owned station, Radio Honduras. HRN is in fact, not one station, but the hub of a network of stations known as the Emisoras Unidas (United Stations).

HRN broadcasts on 670 khz with ten kilowatts from Tegus. Additionally there are relay stations of from one to ten kilowatts in eight provincial cities on 660, 680, and 690 khz, and FM relays in Tegus and San Pedro Sula. In Tegus there are six other stations: Radio Exitos, Radio Reloj, Radio Television, Radio Satelite, Radio Centro, and Estereo Mil. Each of these are aimed at different audiences. Estereo Mil is a very professional and fully automated top forty station - always with the latest hits from the US. All announcements are in both Spanish and English by the same man and woman team, the man in Spanish, the woman in English. So there are IDs such as "This is Stereo Mil, with the best music in town." Bilingual time checks are given every fifteen minutes. Only the ads are not bilingual. This is a very distinctive format and makes the station the most popular in town with young people. Radio Centro emphasizes "radionovelas" - the soap operas of the airwaves, and as one would expect is very popular among women, especially older women. Radio Satelite is a sort of potpouri of chitchat, ads, songs, and news items with guaranteed time check at least once every five minutes and sometimes every minute. The "cuckoo, cuckoo . . . la hora satelite . .." is probably the best known clock in Tegucigalpa. Among the other stations, Radio Exitos plays older romantic music, Radio Reloj more recent romantic music, and Radio Television Spanish pop music. HRN completes the chain by being the all news and sports station, heard nation wide. Other stations in the chain (and some not in it) take their news broadcasts from HRN. Frequently important soccer games will preempt programming on every station, a bit of overkill that shows how strongly men in Honduras feel about the sport. Additionally there are four affiliates (Estereo Rey, Radio Eco, Radio Norte, and Radio Exitos) in San Pedro Sula, and two each in La Ceiba (Radio Caribe and Radio Centro) and Choluteca (Radio Choluteca and Radio Centro).

Many DXers will remember hearing HRN, with its "Aqui la N" (a-KEY la en-a) or "Here's the N" IDs on 5875 SW. During visits to the station I was told that the shortwave transmitter had been turned off as a cost cutting measure when the network of relay stations around the country was completed. However the transmitter is still kept maintained in case it would be needed during a national emergency. There were rumors that it would be put back on the air as a Honduran external service, but I wouldn't hold my breath waiting for it.

HRN was founded as the first Honduran radio station on November 1, 1933 by Jose Rafael Ferrari. After some rough beginnings, it was able to expand technically and professionally after World War II. It was in August, 1965 that HRN merged with a then independent Radio Centro to form the Emisoras Unidas network. Dominating the Tegucigalpa radio market they were able to expand, adding new stations and national coverage through relay stations.

DX Trip to the North Coast

October is a very popular month with both schoolchildren and teachers alike in Honduras. Not only is mid-November and the end of the school year coming up fast, but October has three national holidays, which means three chances to get off school. So when my first October in Honduras came along and I saw I had a three day weekend, I made plans for a DX trip to northern Honduras.

My destination was La Ceiba, but my first stop was in EL Progreso, a dirty and dingy banana town whose name for some reason means "Progress", something the town has seen little of. My main reason for stopping here was to look up Radio Progreso, 4920 khz. The station had been off the air on SW for some time, though not on MW, but I wanted to stop by and learn what I could. It is an easy station to miss. It is located behind one of the lesser Catholic Churches in town with only a small fifteen by twenty-four inch wooden sign, with "Radio Progreso"stenciled in in black. It was the antenna tower that lead me to the building. Radio Progreso was founded by the Jesuits with the aim of providing this region with a radio station that would serve the interests of the people, rather than commercial interests. Health and child care programs became important. In order to combat the typical "radionovelas" which emphasize sex and violence, Radio Progreso produces its own which encourage morals and a strong family life. The station received a major boost in 1974 when Hurricane Fifi struck Honduras. Radio Progreso was the only station in the entire northern part of the country still on the air when the hurricane was over. All relief communications were channeled via the station and tens of thousands of people who never heard of the station before now knew of its existence and the miraculous way it escaped the hurricane.

Although the station was very friendly to DXers in the early 1970s, I had heard it was now run by some very paraniod anti-Americans who think all gringos are CIA agents. When I got to the station door there were three women and a man waiting there. They were waiting for the rest of the staff to come and unlock the door. The station had been broadcasting remote from a nearby church service and no one was inside. Carrying my US Army surplus knapsack and duffle bag, I explained I was a SW hobbyist and my interest in the station. No one would even look at me, although the man mumbled something back. I tried again, and got not more than a mumble in return. I felt the man would like nothing better than to spit in my face. I gave up and left to search for El Progreso's other station.

Radio Moderna, 1470 khz, can't be missed. It is located in a large yellow building with its name on the front. The inside was one big room divided by partitions. Through a window in one, I could see the old tube transmitter, looking like it was just about to give up. In another partition there was some old studio equipment. While El Progreso is anything but progress, Radio Moderna is anything but modern, so I guess they really do belong together. I talked with two of the three DJs there, explaining my hobby, my reception report, and what a verification letter was. The station had no letterhead paper, nor anything else with the name on it, but one did find me a not too shabby piece of typing paper and led me to a battered manual typewriter. He couldn't type, he explained, but he would be glad to let me type up my letter and then they would sign it. So I typed it up, and they all had fun signing their names and long flowery titles which basically meant DJ.

La Ceiba is home to rarely active Radio San Isidro, 4840 khz. Like Radio Progreso, it is owned by the Catholic Church, and like Radio Progreso accepts ads to help cover its costs. Radio San Isidro is located in three small rooms on the second story of a tiny squarish building beside the Catholic church, across from Parque Central. I asked about the SW and was told it is working, but is kept for occasional use on special days. The best times to look are Christmas, Easter, and San Isidro's day (the annual Ceiba carnival) in mid May. On MW they broadcast on 1450 khz from 1200-0500 GMT daily. The also identify as La Dimension.

Old timers might remember one other station I visited, La Voz de Atlantida, the third oldest station in Honduras. Although it now broadcast only on 1420 khz with one kilowatt, at one time in the 1940s and 1950s Radio Atlantida was on thirty-one meters on shortwave. I know of at least one DXer who verified it. lt is still located in a basement room of the owner's three story wooden house which also is home to his medical practice. It looked rather strange to see the lighted HRGZ sign on the side of the house. I talked to the grandson of the founder, whose father is the current owner/manager. Should anyone wish to try a followup after all these years, all three are named Miguel Roberto Moncada. The address is simply La Voz de Atlantida, La Ceiba, Honduras.

In a quick drop-by at Radio Ceiba, 1060 khz, it was interesting to see exactly how little a station manager can really know about his station. I asked what the FM frequency was, and was told "a thousand and forty". Make that 104.0, I guess. He then told me that they signed on daily at 0600 local time, The morning DJ overheard, and with a hint of irritation in his voice, reminded him that it was at 0500, per his orders.

DX Trip to Paradise

At the end of my first year, I decided to go home for Christmas, rather than spend my vacation time locally. But a few weeks after I was back in Honduras I tucked in another long DX weekend before school started up again. This time I went to El Paraiso department in eastern Honduras, along the Nicaraguan border. El Paraiso means "paradise" in Spanish. In this coffee-growing center the towns of Danli (14,000) and El Paraiso (4,000) are located. The area is interesting DXwise in that three of its six MW stations operate on split frequencies, and all three have been logged by DXers in North America.

All six stations in the area use the program block format, as is common in Honduras. That is the station will play different types of music at different times of day, usually in two-hour blocks. In Honduras this normally means ranchera music in the morning when the rural campesinos are getting up and ending the day with pop music since the teenagers in town tend to stay up the latest. Throughout the day are program blocks of other types of music and maybe even a novela.

Danli is a very pretty well kept up and clean town, with many modern conveniences such as movie theatres and supermarkets. It still retains a lot of its traditional atmosphere too in places like its colonial streets, central park, and open market. Tranquilly set among pine covered hills, it certainly does come close to being paradise.

Two blocks off its Parque Central is Radio Danli, HRTR. Director Wilberto Ruiz Molina and I had a long discussion during my visit. Founded in 1974, Radio Danli broadcast on 1365 khz with 1.5 kw at the time of my visit in January, 1983. The split frequency was due to an incorrectly ground crystal and a new one fro 1370 khz was on order in Miami. Some months later in Santa Barbara I heard them on the new frequency of 1372 khz, so it seemed their luck with crystals hadn't changed! They were also planning to raise power to five kilowatts. In addition to their normal programming Radio Danli also broadcast six Voice of America transcription programs on Saturday and Sunday. Aside from the VOA stuff, there were no news broadcasts on Radio Danli, nor did the station carry anything religious or political in nature. Transcription programs may be unknown to many North American DXers. Most of the major international broadcasters produce special taped programs that are available for rebroadcast by local stations in other countries. In Central America the VOA, BBC, Radio Netherlands, and Deutsche Welle are very popular.

Senor Ruiz had a lot to say about the problems and responsibilities of running a small station. One of the main problems is advertising revenues. Honduras has two major networks: the Emisoras Unidas networks of HRN, and the Audio Video network of Radio America/Radio Moderna in Tegus and several other stations around the country. Companies with products to be advertised nationwide tend to deal only with these networks, leaving the small independent stations with only local advertising.

A responsibility of any radio station is to promote and preserve national culture. Despite this, Honduras folk music is not heard on any radio station in Honduras. Senor Ruiz explained that he once had a program of Honduran music, but had to end it for two reasons. First it was not all popular and did not bring in much advertising revenue. Secondly recordings of Honduran folk music are expensive and hard to come by. As the program produced little advertising revenue, it was hard to justify spending lots of money to develop a record library for it. The station tried to get help from the Ministry of Tourism and Culture, but it was not forthcoming and the program was dropped. The same story had been told to me previously at La Voz de Atlantida in La Ceiba.

The music which brings in the revenue in ranchera. But, if he could, Senor Ruiz would throw it all away. Ranchera is very popular in rural areas and the rural people are picking up a lot of Mexican words and phrases from it. This is destroying the Honduran manner of speaking Spanish by Mexicanizing it. Meanwhile English language pop music has captivated the more educated younger set, which finds it classy to use the many English words which are filtering into the language. Honduras is not only losing its folk music, but its language as well.

The Cadena Oriental operates three stations in the area. Two, Radio Cadena Oriental, 1100 khz, and Radio Latina 1255 khz, are in Danli. The other is Radio Paraiso, 1163 khz, in the town of El Paraiso. The town is a rather typical medium size Honduran town with dusty dirt streets that surely turn into muddy quagmires during the rainy season, and cement and adobe buildings ranging from newly built to long decayed. Tranquil, but its not paradise!

Nor does the word paradise accurately describe Radio Paraiso, which also calls itself La Voz del Cafe. The studio is located at the end of a narrow unlit hallway in two dim and dirty cement-floored rooms. Cardboard egg trays have been glued to the walls for sound insulation. Some are falling off.

During my visit to the station, which lasted about half an hour, I was able to witness several servicios, or announcements. In a country where phones are a luxury, these social service announcements are an important part of communications, and of a station's income. At Radio Paraiso, for one Lempira (50 cents US) any announcement will be read over the air three times - or the person bringing it can read it themselves one time. Watching the DJ stumble through someone's sloppy handwriting live on the air is one of the funniest things in broadcasting!

The other station in El Paraiso, the town, is Radio Guaymuras, HRG- 2, which started operations on April 25, 1981. Guaymuras, correctly guay muras, is from a local Indian dialect and means "nido donde -se esconde las aguas" or "where the waters are hidden." The manager is Miguel Medina Elvir, and if the station doesn't have much history,he sure does. During almost thirty years in broadcasting he has worked in nine different Latin American countries. During the Nicaraguan revolution he worked in Chinandega with the Radio Tic Tac, 555 khz/ Radio Titania 725 khz/ Radio Conseguina 1470 khz chain. When the latter two were closed down and Radio Tic Tac became Radio 19 de julio, he lost his job and went back home to El Paraiso. There Dr. Manuel Antonio Ordonez Gallardo was buying up equipment to start a new station, so he snapped up Miguel's talents. Eventually they hope to open up a second MW station to be called Radio Campesina.


This article is copyright 1982-86 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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