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Radio in Aramango, Peru

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The following item is taken from Relampago DX #105 (March 1999) by Takayuki Inoue Nozaki. It is placed here with permission.

Por las Rutas del Perú (20) ...

ARAMANGO

Aramango is one of the six districts included in the Province of Bagua in the Department of Amazonas. It is located at 05-23-00 L.S. and 78-25-50 L.W. and situated at an elevation of 360 meters on the banks of Río Marañón. It was established on December 28, 1961. According to the census of 1993, the population of the whole District of Aramango is 13,528, but the village itself supposedly has 5,000 inhabitants.

Aramango is in an isolated and remote region, but it may be rarely visited by adventurous travelers on their way to Sarameriza, a tiny port on the upper Río Marañón and the most westerly starting point of the river journey down the Río Amazonas. To Latin American DX enthusiasts, it has been particularly known as a new illegal shortwave broadcasters' site. When I was in Jaén, I met with Pablo Minga Pongo, the former owner of Radio San Juan. He informed me that Radio San Juan had abandoned its operations several months ago, and Radio Ondas del Río Marañón was out of service. However, on September 28, 1998, I went on a short visit to see the facilities of Radio Ondas del Río Marañón, and also to learn the possibility of gaining access into Chiriaco, the capital of the Province of Imaza, from which Radio 5264 "La Voz de Chiriaco" had broadcast its shortwave signal on 5264.8kHz. According to local inhabitants, getting into Chiriaco is not easy. In fact, it can be quite uncomfortable and time-consuming. There is no scheduled transportation, although it is possible find pick-up or infrequent ordinary trucks with cargos leaving from Bagua. The trip takes three to four hours, depending on road and weather conditions, which indicates how rough the route is. Alternatively, a river trip is possible along the Río Marañón to Chiriaco at the confluence of this river with the Río Imaza. The journey is made in motorized cargo dugouts and takes most of the day.

Aramango which is located 45 km north of Bagua, is roughly halfway between Bagua and Chiriaco. The most convenient way to get to Aramango is by a shared boxcar, locally called "Comité" (transportation committee) which leaves from Bagua when it is full of passengers. They charge US$1.66 per passenger for a one-and-half-hour precipitous descent into Aramango through the Valley of Marañón. It is worth making the trip just for the view. The transportation service is available during daylight hours (from 6:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. local time).

Aramango is a small tropical settlement surrounded by verdant rainforest mountains. The village is typical of the settlements in the highland jungle region of Northern Peru. There are a few muddy streets centered around the Plaza de Armas, a modern municipal office, some variety stores, a small clinic, and a cheap diner. It is not very well laid out. Nevertheless, almost everyone knows where everything is because the settlement is very small. There are no comfortable accommodations in the village such as a hotel or a hostel. However, some people in the town offer room and board, so that it is possible to rent a place to sleep. The electricity supply is currently available 24 hours a day.

Getting into the village of Aramango, I switched on my SONY ICF-SW100, sitting down on a bench in the Plaza de Armas, and scanned the entire AM and FM bands. As I had anticipated, I found no local stations. There still are no satellite relay transmitters of the metropolitan stations installed in Aramango. On shortwave, many stations transmitting from neighboring departments such as Cajamarca, Piura, and San Martín, could be observed with fairly good signals, although Radio Ondas del Río Marañón was not heard on shortwave. Subsequently, I confirmed my belief that the station had been off the air due to technical problems.

(Check my Peru Radio Graphics website for some great photos of Aramango and Radio Ondas del Rio Maranon.)

RADIO SAN JUAN

Radio San Juan, one of the unlicensed stations established in Aramango, was first observed in early February of 1997. The station had been on the air on 4420.2kHz in the aeronautical mobile band. Afterwards, apparently to avoid interference from Radio Bambamarca "Frecuencia Líder" on 4419.6VkHz, Radio San Juan moved down to the frequency range between 4190.3kHz and 4190.5kHz, on which it remained from November 1997 through late January of 1998. Then it suddenly vanished from the shortwave bands.

On September 26, 1998, after I had been interviewed on the evening program of Radio Jaén, a stranger came to see me while I was in conversation with the station staff. I guessed from experience that he was probably nothing more than a listener who was curious to see a rare Japanese person. I felt that I should simply greet him and say good-bye to him so as not to waste limited time. However, I also thought that I should not dismiss him too hastily. Past experience made me aware that I might discover some valuable information from unexpected sources such as random strangers. First, he showed me my reception report with a picture of myself in the shack. He then showed his identification card, introduced himself as Pablo Minga Pongo, the former owner of Radio San Juan in Aramango. He informed me that Radio San Juan had already ceased its operations, and he had moved from Aramango to Jaén in February of 1998. He received my report on the very day that he left Aramango.

The appearance of the first broadcasting station in Aramango resulted from the efforts of an electrical technician who had wanted to create his own station since his adolescence. His name is Pablo Minga Pongo. He thought that an isolated and remote village needed a medium of telecommunications such as a telephone, a radio station or a television station. Therefore, he went into the Amazon Basin in search of a place where there was no radio station, but where there was a sufficient audience population for such a station, making it a good location in which. to launch a broadcasting business. He found such a place in the village of Aramango, and therefore he decided to establish his radio station there.

"Radio San Juan Empresa Individual de Responsabilidad Limitada", the first privately owned broadcasting enterprise in Aramango, was inaugurated on January 1, 1997, under the management of Pablo Minga Pongo. The station was not religious in nature. The owner called it "San Juan" (Saint John) in order to name it after his eldest son, not to identify it as a religious broadcaster. The station also used the slogan "la número uno" (the number one) in order to compete with two other newcomers "Radio Ondas del Río Marañón" and "Estación Uno" which appeared a few months later. Radio San Juan started transmitting on the nominal frequency of 4400kHz with an output of 0.75kW. However, it actually was on the air on 4420.2kHz (outside its nominal frequency), so that was interfered with by Radio Bambamarca "Frecuencia Líder" operating around the same frequency. The linear distance between these stations' sites, Aramango and Bambamarca, is approximately 140 kilometers. This small distance resulted in the two stations interfering with each other both in the early morning and in the evening. Accordingly, in November of 1997, Radio San Juan had to transmit on a lower frequency. It changed its operating frequency which now varied slightly between 4190.3kHz and 4190.5kHz, despite the nominal 4200kHz. As the station had no official license, and had never even applied for a broadcasting license to the Ministry of Transports and Communications, the choice of those frequencies was determined only because they were the frequencies on which the station was best heard.

Radio San Juan was a typically provincial commercial station, broadcasting a variety of music programs, newscasts, public information programs, special announcements of general interest, and a message service. While it was in operation, the station broadcast uninterruptedly at 1000-2400 from Monday through Saturday, and at 1100-2000 on Sunday. The newscast "Radioperiódico San Juan" was on the air at 1700-1800 daily except Sunday, but due to lack of effective news sources, they generally used news items from newspapers which they received from Lima one day after they were published. Nevertheless, local audiences living in the village and other remote communities in the region, were eager to hear the newspaper reading program to learn about daily events outside of this isolated region. The village of Aramango itself currently has a public telephone center, but no post office. Naturally, many small settlements along the Río Marañón still do not have either communication system. Therefore, Radio San Juan decided to carry "comunicados" and "mensajes" day after day over the airwaves.

Unfortunately the broadcasting enterprise was not successful. Advertisements were scarce and low-priced in the village where there were no remarkable commercial activities. In Aramango the message and communication service by radio is useful because of the inadequacy of the public communication system. However, Radio San Juan was not able to rely on the message service for profit because many locals could not pay fully in cash but only by giving the station some of their products such as eggs, vegetables, fish, and wild birds. On January 31, 1998, the station stopped broadcasting because of financial problems. Shortly afterwards the station owner returned to his birthplace, Jaén, with the transmitting equipment. Pablo Minga Pongo, the station owner, has not given up his desire to operate a radio station. He is planning to resume transmitting, probably with a new station name and somewhere in the neighboring provinces when a good opportunity arises.

Canned identification text of Radio San Juan
"Desde el progresista distrito de Aramango, a orillas del Río Marañón, transmite Radio San Juan, la número uno, en los 4200kHz en la banda tropical de 60 metros onda corta, para toda la región Nor Oriental del Marañón,"

Technical Information

4200kHz: is equipped with a transmitter built by Michael Echevarría (maximum power 1kW /actual power 0.75kW) + a 1/2 wave dipole antenna (9 meters high above the ground).

Address: Calle Cajamarca No.121, Aramango, Provincia de Bagua, Departamento de Amazonas, República del Perú.

RADIO ONDAS DEL RÍO MARAÑÓN

Transmitting from Aramango situated in the hot, humid and fertile Valley of Marañón, a shortwave station identifying itself as "Radio Ondas del Río Marañón", made its first appearance in early May of 1997. The station had broadcast on the frequency of 6520.2kHz in the aeronautical mobile band for a couple of months, then changed its frequency and moved up to 6675.6kHz in the middle of September 1997. Subsequently, it was observed that the station had been on the air on two slightly different channels: 6674.6VkHz (}100Hz) and 6675.6kHz.

At the time Radio Ondas del Río Marañón began using the alternate frequencies of 6674.6VkHz and 6675.6kHz, its morning transmission first became audible in Japan. The station started the morning broadcasts on between 1100 and 1130. However the sign-time was nominally scheduled at 1100 (i.e. 0600 local time). The early morning program "Amanecer Campesino" provided a variety of Peruvian folklore, with message service and useful information for peasants living in the countryside.

On September 28, 1998, I went to visit the station, located at Jirón Amazonas No.315, next to the health center and only three blocks from the Plaza de Armas. The station had no billboard, but I noticed that "R O DEL R M" which should be the abbreviation for the station name, was scribbled by white chalk on the closed door. Behind the adobe house in which the studio was apparently located, antenna cables suspended by two small poles could be seen. I knocked on the closed door, but no one replied. Apparently, there was nobody in the studio which was what I suspected. Therefore, I looked for some neighbors who could make contact with the station owner. A man living in front of the station appeared, and asked who I was. Initially he thought that I was a traveling electrician from Lima or an inspector of the Ministry of Transports and Communications. Shortly afterwards, I explained that I was from Japan and had actually heard the morning transmission of Radio Ondas del Río Marañón on shortwave. He was suspicious of a strange foreigner, but he informed me that the station owner generally did not live in the village of Aramango, and ran a farm in a remote community called "Altos", about a few hours on foot.

Unluckily I was not able to meet the station owner. However I succeeded in having an interview with Adolfo Carbay, who had been an announcer / operator of Radio Ondas del Río Marañón. The station had been silent since late June of 1998 due to a technical problem with the transmitting equipment, and been waiting for some parts to be repaired in Chiclayo. "Radio Ondas del Río Marañón E.I.R.L." was established by Agustín Pongo Huancas in 1997. The shortwave outlet had been alternatively broadcasting with two different transmitters, so the station was apparently observed on two different frequencies. Its nominal frequency was believed to be 6660kHz, however it had been audible either on 6674.6VkHz (}100Hz) or 6675.6kHz. The transmitters were designed and built by a radio-engineer of Chiclayo, but the power of neither transmitter was known. When the station had been active, the transmission was scheduled at these two time slots: 1100-1500 (morning broadcast) and 2000-0100 (evening broadcast).

One month after my short visit to Aramango, a radio station identifying itself as Radio Impacto made its first appearance in late October of 1998, on 6674.7VkHz, the same frequency range on which Radio Ondas del Río Marañón had formerly transmitted. The station declared itself to be broadcasting from the studio at "Jirón Amazonas No.315 in Aramango" which definitely corresponded to the address of Radio Ondas del Río Marañón. The only notable difference was that the nominal frequency of Radio Impacto was announced as "6675kHz en la banda internacional de 49 metros" instead of "6.660MHz". There is no doubt that under Radio Impacto was operating from the same studio and transmitting facilities. The shortwave outlet remained on 6674.8VkHz until late November of 1998, and then it switched over to 6520.2VkHz. The latter channel also corresponds to the frequency on which Radio Ondas del Río Marañón made its first debut on shortwave.

Radio Ondas del Río Marañón had never verified my previous reception reports nor had it replied to my questionnaire. Even having been in Aramango, I could not get my QSL, and therefore I left my report and also some reports of my DX friends. Unfortunately, as of the present time, I have not received any reply from the station. For this reason I can not clear up the actual relationship between these two stations.

Opening announcement of Radio Ondas del Río Marañón
"Desde la amazonía peruana, Distrito de Aramango, Provincia de Bagua, Radio Ondas del Río Marañón apertura su programación correspondiente al día de hoy, deseando que las ilusiones de nuestro creador lleguen a todos los hogares del mundo entero. Radio Ondas del Río Marañón en los 6.660MHz banda internacional de los 49 metros, onda corta, les invita a participar desde estos instantes de su variada programación, muy buenos días."

Closing announcement of Radio Ondas del Río Marañón
"Desde la amazonía peruana, Distrito de Aramango, Provincia de Bagua, Radio Ondas del Río Marañón cierra así su transmisión correspondiente al día de hoy, esperando que la programación emitida en esta fecha hayan sido de su más completo agrado de todos y cada uno de ustedes. Radio Ondas del Río Marañón en los 6.660MHz banda internacional de los 49 metros, onda corta, les agradece por su sintonía dispensada y invitándoles a sintonizarnos el día de mañana a la hora de costumbre, a las 6 de la mañana, muy buenas noches."

Canned Identification text of Radio Ondas del Río Marañón
"Desde la capital del turismo amazónico, Distrito de Aramango, tierra prodigiosa, desde aquí transmite Radio Ondas del Río Marañón en los 6.660MHz banda internacional de los 49 metros, Radio Ondas del Río Marañón a la vanguardia del desarrollo del Distrito de Aramango, Provincia de Bagua, Departamento de Amazonas, República del Perú."

Address: Jirón Amazonas No.315, Aramango, Provincia de Bagua, Departamento de Amazonas, República del Perú.

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