Happy World Radio Day! The United Nations designated February 13 World Radio Day in 2011 to recognize the importance of radio across the globe in educating, informing, and entertaining listeners.
In an age where fake news and “alternative facts” impact how we access information about the world around us, it’s crucial that we continue to support media outlets that are close to the ground and committed to delivering accurate and applicable news.
To learn more about Mangrove Radio, I interviewed friend and radio presenter Merlin Argueta. Merlin and I are the same age, 25, and we first met in 2015 at a Local Youth Group meeting in the community of Amando López, where she lives.
Tell me about yourself. Where are you and your family from?
My family is originally from the department of Morazán. They fled to Honduras during the war. Near the end of the conflict, they returned to Morazán, which is where I was born in 1991. Life was difficult there; we had no real way of making a living. My family was told there were more opportunities for farming in the Lower Lempa, because of the land redistribution. So when I was one year old my mother and grandmother decided to come here.
Back then there wasn’t much in the Lower Lempa. Everything you see here today didn’t exist yet. People lived all together, in makeshift shelters and under trees. But we were able to support ourselves. Today my family farms corn and other vegetables. I got my high school degree and have a daughter of my own who is now six years old.
How did you get involved in Mangrove Radio?
I’ve always been involved in community affairs. I taught catechism to kids and I was part of the Local Youth Group of Amando López. Eventually I became a member of the Executive Board of the ADESCO [community development association] of Amando López.
I’ve always liked learning and teaching, and these activities interested me because they offered opportunities to work on youth issues and to have exchanges with other young people.
In the summer of 2015 I was invited join the radio. Senior radio staff taught me to how use the radio console and transmission equipment. I was nervous at first but eager to learn.
Then from August to November of 2015 I participated in weekend trainings by ARPAS every two weeks. [ARPAS is the Association of Radios and Participatory Programs of El Salvador, a national network of community radios that provides resources and works to strengthen local media across the country.] The training program is called the “Policy School”; they taught us how to interpret and analyze the national situation, and how to convey that to our listeners. I got to know other radio presenters from across the country in those trainings.
Now I work at the radio five days a week, sometimes Saturdays too, and I stay at the Ciudad Romero dorms the night of the week that I’ve got an evening shift.
What kind of programs does Mangrove Radio air? What’s your favorite?
Mangrove Radio is a resource for the community: we broadcast community news, we advertise for local businesses, we cover area events and activities. Whereas before community radio wasn’t very well regarded, people in the zone have come to recognize Mangrove Radio and appreciate our presence and coverage of issues that are important to them.
We have all kinds of programs. There’s a program run by little kids, another produced by young people, there’s a música ranchera hour, a romantic music hour, religious programs, and a space for social content where we feature local groups and bands. We air national newscasts as well as content from other community radio stations all over the country thanks to our membership in the ARPAS network.
We also have an alliance with MARN [the Ministry of Environment]. They send us information about weather and climate conditions that we pass on to the communities. This information is especially helpful for farmers in tending to their crops.
We recently conducted interviews with local women entrepreneurs, including a woman who sells tortillas and another who makes natural medicine from plants found in the area.
I like all the programs. Everything I do interests me. It was my goal to learn the basics and now I want to keep learning in order to help the community.
Why is community radio important?
Community radio is important because it gives voice to the people, it gives them an opening to express their opinion. Many of our listeners don’t have access to conventional or commercial media outlets. It’s a tool to communicate, to organize, and to keep people safe.
My community [Amando López] is pretty well organized, but others aren’t. Another function of community radio is to share stories and experiences so that those other communities can become more organized.
Does your family listen to Mangrove Radio?
My family are all avid listeners of Mangrove Radio. My daughter told me that she wants to work in radio like me when she grows up.
How do people interact with Mangrove Radio? What do they tell you?
We receive lots of messages and phone calls daily from listeners. They call to give shout outs to their friends and family who are also listening, and to tell us what’s going on in their communities. People identify with what we talk about, because we come from the same communities. There are even people in places like Panamá and the United States who tune in.
I have a friend now living in the United States who listens to our online live stream. She says that since she’s immigrated to the U.S. she’s felt very alone. Listening to the radio makes her happy and makes her feel connected.
Community radio is powerful like that. It helps rekindle people’s love for the region, for their roots, and it helps them remember their home. Families connect through the radio. Thanks to the radio, their family and home are always present in their minds and hearts.
We are here to help maintain that link.
Is there anything else you’d like the readers of our blog to know?
I’d like to thank all of EcoViva’s supporters for making Mangrove Radio a reality. We wouldn’t be able to progress like this without them. We will keep striving every day to bring timely news, educational programs, and entertainment to the communities we serve. Thank you!