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Radio in Huancabamba, Peru


The following item is taken from Relampago DX #117 (May 2000) by Takayuki Inoue Nozaki. It is placed here with permission.

Por las Rutas del Perú (27) ...


Huancabamba, the capital of the Province of Huancabamba in the Department of Piura, is a peaceful country town, formed by narrow cobbled streets, adobe houses with roofs of thatch or corrugated tin huddled, together, and an old church, amidst an attractive landscape. The whole district of Huancabamba has 28,802 inhabitants according to the 1995 population census. In Inca times, the town was a minor settlement along the Inca Andean Highway between Ecuador and the important town of Cajamarca. After the downfall of the Inca Empire, remnants of Inca paving still can be seen along the Huancabamba River. Therefore, the settlment is named as Huancabamba, originally "huanca pampa" in the Quechua words which together mean "stone pavement plain".

Situated at an elevation of 1957 meters, Huancabamba lies at the head of the long and very narrow Valley of the Huancabamba River, and surrounded by the Cordillera of Los Andes. The banks of the Huancabamba River are unstable and constantly eroding. The town itself is subject to frequent subsidence and slippage. Thus it is popularly called as "la ciudad que camina" (the town which walks) and also nicknamed as "Resbalabamba" (sliding plain) in the compound words of Spanish and Quechua. The Huancabamba River is the most westerly major tributary to the Amazon River. Although it is only 160 kilometers from the Pacific Ocean, the waters of the Huancabamba River empty into the Atlantic Ocean, some 3500 kilometers away.

On January 14, 1865, the Province of Huancabamba was established as the fourth province, in the Department of Piura. Bordering upon Ecuador to the north along the Blanco River, the Province of Huancabamba is surrounded by the Province of Ayabaca to the northwest, the Province of Morropón to the west, the Department of Cajamarca to the east, and Department of Lambayeque to the southeast. The Province of Huancabamba which encompasses 4,254.14 square kilometers, is politically divided into the following eight districts: Huancabamba, Canchaque, El Carmen de la Frontera, Huarmaca, Lalaquiz, San Miguel de El Faique, Sondor, and Sondrillo. The population of the whole province is 121,304 according to the 1995 population census.

Huancabamba which sits at 05-14-12 L.S. and 79-26-54 L.W., is located 214 kilometers away from Piura, the capital of the department of Piura. However due to very rough and hilly roads, the journey takes about nine to ten hours, and it can easily take twice as long in the wet season. When I visited Huancabamba in late December of 1994, there were three bus companies operating daily services between Piura and Huancabamba for US$ 9 (i.e. 20 nuevo soles). Traveling east from Piura, the route first takes on the asphalt Pan-American Highway passing a vast sandy desert, and then, after 64 kilometers, it follows along the dirt road to Huancabamba, passing citrus groves, sugarcane fields and coffee plantations. Generally, the bus make a stop for a short rest in Canchaque, about 50 kilometers before Huancabamba. Canchaque is the junction village where one get off to catch another minibus or pickup truck from here into San Miguel de El Faique. Beyond Canchaque the road climbs steeply over a 3000 meter-pass before dropping to Huancabamba.

Huancabamba currently has an airstrip for small aircraft carrying five to nine passengers. The airstrip is about five kilometers from the heart of the town. There are two flights a week between Piura and Huancabamba, and it takes only 30 minutes, so taking the aircraft is the easiest way to get there in comparison with a long rough overland journey for many hours. However, the flights are occasionally cancelled due to a lack of passengers. Supposedly, the one-way fare costs US$30, which is quite expensive for the rural people of the region.

Having produced numerous shortwave broadcasters since the middle of 1980's, Huancabamba attracted the attention of Latin American DX enthusiasts as the first epicenter of out-of-band-shortwave stations in the Department of Piura. It was in June of 1984 that the broadcasting activity in Huancabamba was started by Radio Huancabamba, the first privately owned commercial broadcaster which operated on 1240 kHz medium wave. Subsequently the following shortwave stations emerged, some of them later vanishing in the local broadcasting field: Radio Grau, Radio Sensacion, Radio Centinela, Radio Imperial, Radiodifusora Huancabamba, Radio La Voz de las Huaringas, Radio Super Nueva Sensacion, and Radio JCC.

Radio Grau commenced transmissions in November of 1984, being the first shortwave station in the Province of Huancabamba. In the following year, Radio Huancabamba also made its debut on shortwave in order to extend its broadcasting coverage. Radio Sensación made its debut on shortwave in March of 1986. Because the people had difficulties making rapid and timely contact with other communities for lack of the communication infrastructures, such as telephone, mail service, and regular transportation, these stations played an important role in broadcasting, by managing the communication service on the airwaves such as personal messages and public announcements, and also providing news, information, entertainment, music, and cultural orientation. The appearance of other broadcasters helped locals learn of the optional selection of communication, depending on program content, quality of transmission, operating frequencies, and coverage. Because of the increase in newcomers, Radio Grau had suffered gradually from a decrease in income from advertisements and message service, and eventually in December of 1989, it ceased transmissions due to financial difficulties.

While on one hand broadcasters in Huancabamba continue to disappear from the field, on the other hand newcomers continue to appear on the airwaves. Radio Centinela "La Voz de las Guaringas" started the experimental transmissions on 6544.5 kHz in the middle of March of 1994. The station was formally established by two enterprisers on June 16, 1994, but the operations were discontinued in early December of 1994 because of the partnership dissolution. In March of 1995, the station returned to the airwaves, newly identifying itself as Radio Imperial "Voz de la Peruanidad".

In the middle of March 1995, Radio Huancabamba, Radio Sensación, and Radio Imperial were raided by the Ministry of Transports and Communications owing to having been on the air illegally without license. The shortwave transmitters was seized by the judge of penal court, and then the equipments were returned to each of the owners after paying a penalty of US$ 2,000 (two thousands US dollars). These stations have never applied for licenses to the Ministry of Transports and Communications, because getting for licenses the Ministry of Transports and Communications oblige them to pay expensive fees for various technical inspections on broadcasters, and for granting authorizations. Furthermore, the government imposes heavy monthly taxes on broadcasters to maintain licenses.

While several stations operating without licenses had appeared on shortwave, an officially authorized station came into existence in the local broadcasting field. It was Radio Difusora Huancabamba which came to be heard by DX enthusiasts on 6535.8 kHz in late July of 1995, after having made experimental operations on the officially assigned frequency of 3370 kHz in the 90 meter band. The station has been operating outside the broadcasting bands assigned to the region by the ITU. According to the official list of registered broadcasting stations issued by the Ministry of Transports and Communications in September of 1999, there are only two authorized broadcasters in Huancabamba, and both stations are assigned on shortwave bands. "Radiodifusora Huancabamba E.I.R.L." is licensed under the callsign OAW1A to transmit on 3370 kHz in the 90 meter band, but it has been actually on the air on the measured frequency of 6535.8 kHz. "Radio La Voz de las Huaringas E.I.R.L." is licensed under the callsign OAW1B to operate on 4930 kHz in the 60 meter band, though it made its first appearance on 7003.3 kHz and later moved to 6819.4 kHz. At the time of writing, all shortwave broadcasters in Huancabamba are running on the out-of-band frequencies to avoid interference from other stations, whether they are licensed or unlicensed. Probably in the future, the licensed stations would move to the officially assigned frequency under an administrative decree, and naturally the illegal transmissions may be ceased by the government authorities.

The commercial broadcasting business came to a boom in the 1990's extensively in the mountain districts of the Department of Piura including Ayabaca, Huarmaca, Sondor, and San Miguel de El Faique. It means that the shortwave broadcasts still make income on providing simply personal messages, greeting, congratulations with typical music of the region for audiences living without benefits of modern communication system such as telephone, facsimile, or Internet.


Radio Grau was first heard on 4004.9 kHz near the vicinity of the 75 meter band in early February of 1985. It was about three months later when the station started regular transmissions, being the first shortwave broadcaster established in the Province of Huancabamba. Although the station aimed at operating on a nominal frequency of 4010 kHz, its frequency had been measured actually in the range of 4004.5 kHz - 4004.9 kHz until the second transmitter was purchased in the middle of August 1987. Subsequently Radio Grau was audible on either 4000.5 kHz or 4004.9 kHz for a while. It seems that the station had utilized alternatively two transmitting units depending upon the time: the former frequency was carried with the new transmitter; and the latter one was transmitted with the previous transmitter. In late September of 1987, the station was also logged in the slightly drifting frequency range of 4007.5 kHz - 4009.6 kHz.

It was noted in early November of 1988 that Radio Grau resumed the transmission after one year of silence. Announcing the nominal frequency of 4300 kHz, in fact, it was measured on 4300.7 kHz. The frequency change was made either to avoid interference from Radio Frecuencia Popular which transmitted from Rioja on a variable frequency around 4012 kHz or perhaps because of another technical problem. The station remained there for a while, and then disappeared from the airwaves. After about one year, the station made another comeback on 5275.5 kHz in late August of 1989, and then slightly moved down to 5277.5 kHz in September 1989, when the outlet was last logged by DX enthusiasts.

As Radio Grau had not been traced on shortwave for many years, I presumed that the station had already ceased its operations, or had switched its transmissions from shortwave to FM, providing programs only for the urban audience. While in Huancabamba, I scanned the entire AM and FM bands, and no signal of Radio Grau was found. So I asked about the matter to staff working at other local broadcasters. They informed me that the station left the transmissions some years ago. As I received once a QSL letter from Radio Grau while it was still active on the vicinity of 4005 kHz, I was interested in making contact with the station owner.

In the morning on December 26, 1994, I had a chance to have an interview with the founder and the ex-owner of Radio Grau. The station did not exist anymore in Huancabamba. However, I was informed that the station owner has managed a small stationery store "Libreria Bazar Central" at Calle Grau No. 403, the same street address on which the station was formerly located. Ignacio J. Leon Alva, the founder and the ex-station owner, cordially welcomed me and informed me about the history of the station.

On November 15, 1984, Radio Grau was inaugurated by Ignacio J. Leon Alva, a high school professor who had migrated from Trujillo to Huancabamba in 1978. The station was established under the broadcasting company name of "Radio Difusora Grau Empresa Individual de Responsabilidad Limitada", identifying itself with the name of Miguel Grau, the hero of the war of the Pacific against Chile (1879-1880) and the captain of the British-built (I added a - there) warship Huascar. It was created for the purpose of integrating the urban and rural inhabitants in the Province of Huancabamba. The station initially broadcast (run is not a very good word for broadcasting) at 0900-0200 for 16 hours from Monday to Saturday, and 1000-0200 for 15 hours on Sunday, providing news, information, entertainment, communiques, messages, congratulations and typical music of the region. At that time, there was not round-the-clock electricity in the town; it was only available for a couple of hours in the early morning and the night. Therefore, the station transmitted with the its own generator to able to maintain uninterrupted transmissions. Subsequently, when the electricity was introduced for 24 hours a day, its operating schedule was extended for 20 hours at 0900-0500 daily.

The station initially transmitted on the nominal frequency of 4010 kHz, with a "FRANVEL" brand transmitter of 0.5 kW. The shortwave transmission was beamed to people living throughout the Department of Piura. In the middle of August 1987, Radio Grau purchased another powerful "FRANVEL" transmitter with an output power of 1.5 kW in order to enlarge the broadcasting coverage including the northern and eastern departments of Amazonas, Cajamarca, San Martin, Lambayeque, as well as the southern region of Ecuador. For a couple of months, the station utilized two transmitters alternatively, and afterward the first transmitter, which emitted its signal in the range of 4004.5 kHz - 4004.9 kHz, was sold to another broadcaster in Distrito Morrope, Department of Lambayeque. Accordingly, Radio La Voz del Campesino broadcasting from San Miguel de El Faique in the Province of Huancabamba, made its appearance on 4004.9 kHz, so it seems that the transmitter was sold again to another broadcaster and was transferred from Morrope to San Miguel de El Faique.

Radio Grau changed its frequency to avoid interference from a provincial station on a nearby channel, and moved down to 4300 kHz in early November of 1988. But shortly later, the transmission was discontinued due to technical problems. After one year of silence, the station resumed operations on the nominal frequency of 5275 kHz in August of 1989.

Most of the provincial station's income must be generated through the sale of the personal announcements, congratulations with music, and a few percent of commercial advertising. The main reason that shortwave is used so extensively in the region is to allow message services on the airwaves to reach isolated communities. However, Radio Grau had not been able to rely on the message service for profit during the last few years before it was closed in December of 1989, because Radio Huancabamba and Radio Sensacion had gotten the major part of the regional audience during the years, and the installation of telephone service in different parts of the province which was making the message service unnecessary.

Canned identifications of Radio Grau
"Desde Huancabamba, Peru, Radio Grau, la del gran sonido en 4010 kHz para el nororiente peruano."
"Desde Huancabamba, transmite Radio Grau 4010 kHz onda corta banda de 75 metros en amplitud modulada." "Escuhan Radio Grau, la emisora lider de Huancabamba."
"Radio Grau, voz independiente al servicio del pueblo."

Technical Information
4010 kHz: was equipped with two "FRANVEL" brand transmitter (0.5 kW /1.5 kW) + a 1/2 wave dipole antenna (9 meters high above the ground).

Address: Calle Grau No. 403 Huancabamba, Provincia de Huancabamba, Departamento de Piura, Republica del Peru.


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