Main Venezuela Menu Venezuela Media Study Main Menu What's New Best of this Site Radio History



In Andean Venezuela, there are no large department stores like Sears or Wal-mart and merchandise is sold is smaller specialty stores. Radios are mostly sold in appliance stores that, as the name suggests, sell all sorts of household items ranging from stoves and refrigerators to blenders, videocassette recorders, and televisions. Some appliance stores focus more narrowly on only audio and video equipment. In a few cases such audio-video stores also sell CDs and cassettes, but rarely.

In my prior travels in Latin America, I was always amazed at the variety of shortwave receivers for sale in stores. True, these were the old-style off-brand analog receivers with one or more shortwave bands labeled SW1, SW2, etc. But, to go into a store and see twenty, thirty, or more such sets was refreshing! Likewise, I was always impressed that most boomboxes sold in Latin America had analog SW bands on them. Better shortwave receivers by reputable manufacturers such as Sony, Grundig, Panasonic, etc, were occasionally, but not often, seen.

In Venezuela, almost every appliance or electronics store that I visited had at least one shortwave radio offered for sale. However, few had more than three (and all those stores were in San Cristobal). But, while there is less variety than before, the available options are better. I saw very few of the old-style analog receivers. Most receivers for sale were modern multi-band bandspread analogs. Many of these were off-brands, but not a few were brand name. I also came across several brand-name (mostly Sony) digital radios.

Boomboxes are an exception to the above. Many, but not most, boomboxes still have old-style analog SW bands on them. In the better-stocked stores, up to half the models had SW bands. However, the fewer models a store had, the smaller percentage of the models that had shortwave. I visited several stores which had less than ten models for sale, none with shortwave. I suspect those stores that are only carrying a few models are most interested in cheaper models, so tend to avoid the frills, such as shortwave bands, in choosing which models to sell.

In these appliance/electronic stores, smaller items are displayed in glass showcases and medium-sized items on shelves behind the showcases. Prices are usually clearly marked. With a few exceptions, I found Venezuelan sales clerks to be less aggressive than elsewhere in Latin America as I was able to browse freely without being asked what I was looking for. In several stores in Merida and San Cristobal, shortwave receivers were displayed in the front window. In one San Cristobal store, a shortwave radio (a Phillips AE3205) was displayed as the main item in one of the four window sections, with a prominent sign. In most stores, shortwave receivers were not in the front display windows. However, they were still usually prominently displayed along with other radio, car stereos, etc.

If I were asked if I needed help or if I couldn't find any SW receivers, I would ask if they had any. In some cases the store didn't sell any, but usually I was taken directly to the shortwave sets, which showed me the clerks at least knew what a shortwave receiver was and where they were located. Considering the many small items in some of these stores, that is no small feat. The most interesting case, however, was in Merida at an up-scale electronics store. As soon as I walked in, an older man seated behind a desk in the back, apparently the manager, got up and came to ask me how he could help me. (At such up-scale stores, obvious foreigners are often given special treatment.) I asked about shortwave sets and he said they had none and hadn't for a long time. He went back to his desk and I continued to browse, coming across a nine-band Hitachi bandspread analog and an old-style Aiwa analog.

While small bandspread analog receivers are image-prone and not pleasant for hours of listening, they generally perform fine for listening to major broadcasters and the bandspread technology is a major improvement over the old-style analogs in finding stations. The most common receiver for sale was a shirt-pocket sized eight-band bandspread analog sold under several names including Suny, Sonivox, and International. I suspect this might be the same set as a $20 portable sold at Woolworths that has been a topic of discussion recently on the Internet shortwave discussion group. (Actually, it has six shortwave meterbands plus AM and FM.)

Following is a city-by-city look at receiver availability in each location I visited. As elsewhere in this study, prices are given in US dollars, rounded off to the nearest dollar, or to the nearest two or three dollars in the case of higher-priced items.

There were many appliance and electronic stores in Merida, but audio equipment tended to be on the low-end, in terms of quality and price. I suspect this is because many of the buyers there are college students. Likewise, shortwave receivers in Merida were low-priced, low-quality. The above mentioned eight-band receiver was in about half of the shops, with prices ranging from $17 to $31. One store had the set under two different names side by side for $17 and $22, while another had two versions for $25 and $30 side by side. A paperback- sized International receiver with ten bands (two additional meterbands) was in several stores with prices ranging from $31 to $42. I also saw several old-style analog receivers under the Aiwa name, ranging from $18-$36. The only brand-name receivers I saw (these were at different locations) were a Hitachi 9 band bandspread analog at a rather expensive $108 and a Sony SW-30, which was marked $204, but the aggressive saleman said I could have it for $174 if I paid in cash rather than with a credit card. In addition to dedicated shortwave receivers, there were a number of boomboxes with shortwave bands, although mostly in more up-scale stores that didn't appear to market towards the college student market.

The business district in Trujillo is not very large, so it was easy to see all of it. Each of the four appliance/electronics stores had exactly one shortwave receiver in stock. Surprisingly, considering the rural atmosphere of this city, two of these were Sonys - an SW-10 at $124 and a SW-22 at $162. The other two stores had the same old-style Aiwa receiver with AM, FM, and SW 3-12 MHz for a rather high $48. None of these stores had many boomboxes, and none of those had shortwave. Although my Saturday afternoon wanderings in Valera took me through most of the downtown business district, I did not see a single appliance or electronics store, and therefore saw no shortwave sets for sale in Valera. In Latin America, sometimes similar businesses are clustered together and I just must have never walked down the right street. Likewise, in my short visit to El Vigia, I only found two appliance stores and neither had any shortwave receivers, including boomboxes. However, I did not see most of the business district there.

Considering San Cristobal's place as a major commercial center and nearby San Antonio's as a border trading town, not surprisingly they had the best selection of shortwave receivers for sale. Appliance and electronic stores in these two towns tended to be better stocked and with better quality merchandise than elsewhere. Those stores in San Cristobal were generally more up-scale in their merchandising, while those in San Antonio reminded me somewhat of discount mass- merchandisers in the US, although on a smaller level. In both towns, a high proportion of the boomboxes had shortwave.

As to regular shortwave receivers, several stores in San Cristobal had more than three sets available, and often these were brand-name radios. For example, one very nice shop on Seventh Avenue (the main business street) just two blocks from the plaza had five sets - the digital readouts Sony SW-33 at $249, Sony SW-30 at $170, and Phillips AE3625 at $134, plus a bandspread analog nine band Aiwa at $135 and an old-style three band Aiwa at $50. Prices were not very consistent, however. A nearby store had the SW-33 for $315, the SW-30 for $258, and the analog SW-22 for $189. I saw the SW-33 and SW-30 for sale at a few more places at prices in between these. Of course, the differences in price may reflect how willing a store is to negotiate on the price. Other sets seen included the Phillips AE3205 at several places for around $65 and the Sony SW-15 for around $120. Finally, there was a fair selection of off-brand bandspread analogs (especially the eight- band one seen in Merida) and old-style analogs at similar prices to Merida.

I was surprised at the variety of Sony receivers in San Cristobal, but it appears that Sony has some official connections there. On a city bus ride, I went past an official Sony authorized repair center. It was a very nice looking building and with a large impressive sign with the Sony logo, and it looked completely legitimate (and not like a small repair shop stretching the truth).

I did not visit Caracas, but was interested to see a very nice selection of Sony portables, including some upper end models like the SW-1, in a showcase at a duty free shop in Maiquetia Airport. Prices were not marked, however, and I didn't have time to stop and ask as I was in a hurry to catch my flight.


At almost every radio station I visited, I met at least one person and sometimes more than one who listens to or has listened to shortwave. When someone was not currently active, the reason given was always that they were now too busy with work and/or studies and hoped to get back to it eventually. In every single instance, when I asked people why they (had) listened to shortwave, they immediately said for news coverage. Each person was interested in international news not necessarily available on Venezuelan domestic media and for other perspectives on the news. A few mentioned different types of music and one mentioned the Spanish language version of Happy Station on Radio Netherlands, but only after talking about news coverage. The term news here includes not only actual newscasts, but also news and information magazine type programs.

However, although I made a point of bringing shortwave up in conversations in taxis, stores, and other places I got to chat with Venezuelans, aside from radio station personnel, I only met one person who listened to shortwave. That one other person was a trombone player in a local band who visited Radio Frontera for an interview while I was there. Like the others, he said he listened for news, although not as often as he wished because he worked nights in his job.

Of course, it is hard to call this a representative sample of Venezuelan shortwave listeners when all but one are employed in the radio profession. Certainly, they have a sort of professional interest in broadcasting. But, those I asked knew of others not in radio who listened to shortwave. And, it is positive that these stations have someone who knows about shortwave and could find the VOA, BBC, etc. in times of crisis to relay international news. This is obviously not true of radio stations in the US! One possible factor in my not meeting anyone who listens to shortwave except at radio stations is that as a former Peace Corps volunteer, I travel rather simply and do not go to places where one might meet local elites, such as at better hotels and restaurants. On the other hand, I did get the chance to chat with Venezuelan professionals several times while visiting tourist attractions.

In almost every case, the Voice of America was mentioned first and foremost as a favorite station. It is possible that my being an American may have prejudiced people to say that, but there was undoubtedly a genuine respect and interest in the Voice of America. In Merida, every station I visited bragged that Hector Velasquez Mejies, a Merideño now working for VOA Spanish, was once an announcer at their station. Either he had a very unstable work history, or some of those claims were not exactly truthful! The BBC, Radio Netherlands, Deutsche Welle, and Radio Exterior de España were the only other stations frequently cited by the people I spoke to. These five stations have always been mentioned as favorites by Latin American shortwave listeners I have talked to. Several people mentioned the CARACOL domestic network from Colombia, which can be heard on either shortwave or AM in Venezuela. One person each mentioned Radio France and Radio Canada. Two stations that were commonly mentioned by listeners I met in my previous travelers were not mentioned at all in Venezuela. One was Radio Sweden, which is not surprisingly as they dropped their Spanish broadcasts a few years ago. The other was Radio Havana, which may represent some interesting political implications.

Here are a few specific examples of the people I spoke to. Announcer Jorge Rodriguez of Radio Mundial Los Andes said he listens to the VOA several times a week and has a lot of college friends who listen to shortwave, too. However, he acknowledged that the number of people who listen to shortwave has dropped a lot in the past several years. Edgar Fabala, a journalism student and journalist at Ecos del Torbes, says he listens regularly to the VOA when he's not overloaded with classwork. Edgar knew of the VOA's plan to end all shortwave broadcasting in Spanish in favor of satelite and said he found the idea very strange and hard to understand.

Ivan Escobar, the head engineer for the Ecos del Torbes group, is an Adventist and lamented that he can't get better reception of AWR Pan America from Costa Rica, the only station he's interested in listening to. His assistant, listens regularly to the VOA, Spanish National Radio, and Deutsche Welle, mostly for news. However, neither knew many others who listen to shortwave. Technician Domingo Tedesco of Globo FM is a ham and has done a lot of SWLing, too. He is the only person I spoke to who claimed there were a lot of SWLs in Venezuela. However, he seemed to be speaking of numbers relative to amateur radio operators. Like many others, Domingo listens a lot less than before because of work. Announcer Jose Ramon at Radio Trujillo is another regular news-oriented shortwave listener, especially to the VOA.

I met one bonafide DXer, Orlando Suarez of Ondas Panamericanas. Orlando could recite frequencies and names of dozens of Latin American tropical band stations, going back to the early 1970s. He also mentioned listening to a number of lesser international broadcasters, which are not mentioned above as I suspect he is not a regular listener of any of them.

Orlando is from a small town in the Tovar region of southern Merida state, and the most interesting thing he told me is that shortwave listening is rather common in the smaller towns in this area. He said that back in his hometown and other nearby towns, nearly everybody has a shortwave receiver and many listen to foreign stations, which is how he got interested in DXing. He even told me a story of how three little "mom & pop" stores had an informal contest for a while in which they tried to outdo one another in seeing who could decorate their store with the most souvenirs (stickers, pennants, etc) from international broadcasters. Orlando insisted that listening to international shortwave is still common in his remote home region because there is so little else to do. It would have been interesting to check this area out for myself, but unfortunately I was near the end of my trip and didn't have the time. However, in my travels I have always found more shortwave listeners in remote or somewhat remote small towns and cities than in the larger cities or less remote areas. And, I know that shortwave listening was very common in Santa Barbara, Honduras, where I lived from 1982-84.

In sum, shortwave listening in Latin America has not been at the same level as Africa, Asia, or Eastern Europe for decades, if it ever was. Nevertheless, in the recent past there was still a significant audience in Latin America. It is clear, however, that in Venezuela shortwave listening is rapidly declining to what it is in the United States - the realm of a small devoted internationally-minded audience (plus a few DXers). There may be pockets of broader shortwave listening in more remote areas, such as the Tovar area, but even those will likely disappear as modern media moves in. Although I have only looked at one region of Venezuela, I am sure that the data can be extrapolated to the rest of the country and, indeed, much of the rest of Latin America. The only positive factor here is that the limited audience that remains appears to be a highly influential one - radio station staff in the case of my research.

Continue to next part -- Return to Table of Contents


This article is copyright 1995 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.

This website is maintained by Don Moore,
Association of North American Radio Clubs
DXer of the Year for 1995

My Address Is In This Graphic