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Colección: La Educación
Número: (129-131) I,III
Año: 1998

Empowerment and Conflict: Broadcasting Issues

The Solidarity Program (1992a), also known as PRONASOL, is a federal multipurpose agency that sponsors and coordinates health, education, and infrastructure development strategies (Lustig 1994). In collaboration with the INI, it also promotes the national economic and social integration of indigenous communities with socioeconomic development projects such as the 23 Regional Funds in Chihuahua for Indigenous Community Economic Development (Fox 1994; Villar Borja 1994). This government effort does not seek to assimilate indigenous groups, but to promote their socioeconomic welfare while respecting their cultural identity, independence, rights, and dignity (Silva 1989). This is a sharp departure from previous policies that actively promoted assimilation among indigenous groups via schooling and socioeconomic mainstreaming practices (Villorio 1984; Central Institute of Indian Languages 1989). It is complemented by a state effort, begun in 1987, known as the Coordinación Estatal de la Tarahumara. This agency  is also responsible for the bilingual and biliterate education program mentioned elsewhere (Programa de Solidaridad 1994a).

These two government agencies are improving the status of the Rarámuri and other indigenous groups by addressing issues and problems that are often communicated via the broadcasts of Radio XETAR, thus thrusting the station into the politics of the region. According to Romo (1990), indigenous groups in the Sierra Tarahumara frequently demand air time to discuss their problems and to organize their political efforts. Political action has often ensued after an issue has been aired in a program: a direct call to action, a personal communication, etc. The issues confronting the inhabitants of the Sierra Tarahumara range from government abuse or insensitivity, drug growing, and drug trafficking to land disputes, health issues, farming problems, drought, and wide spread hunger that call for collective action and an institutional response (Valencia Juárez 1989; Anguiano 1994; Villages de Ortiz 1994).

A salient example of this type of broadcast format is the weekly program of guest announcer Edwin Bustillos, who is the leader and founder of CASMAC (Advisory Council of the Sierra Madre), a human rights and environmental organization. Bustillos educates indigenous people in his program about their political rights, economic development issues, and environment concerns. The latter two are long-standing problems associated with the timber industry (Lartigue 1983). He also exhorts listeners to unite against the unscrupulous timber barons and drug traffickers. His efforts to raise the consciousness of the Sierra Tarahumara’s inhabitants already have resulted in serious reprisals against him and his family by drug terrorists in the region (Weisman 1994; Shoumatoff 1995).

Another example of political and socioeconomic empowerment is the formation of organizations designed to address social issues, such as the group “The Tarahumaras United Will Struggle to Overcome Poverty.” It is based in the Santa Anita region of southwestern Chihuahua, where  it already has confronted a family of “Chabochis” over a land ownership issue (Programa de Solidaridad 1992b). Notimex (1992) reports that The Declaration of Turuachic issued by a group formed under the auspices of the regional Solidarity Fund includes the goal of political action for the defense against aggression from outside groups. Several other indigenous constituencies have organized into action groups with the assistance of Radio XETAR broadcasts. The empowering role of Radio XETAR has not gone unnoticed by those whose interests in the Sierra Tarahumara have been adversely affected. Riding (1986) claims that in the early 1980s the INI moved to exert greater control over radio stations in the nation. This action apparently was a reaction to broadcasts by activist announcers who were critical of government officials. However, Urías Hermosillo (1994) asserts that there was no attempt to censor Radio XETAR in the 1980s, when the station was under his tutelage.