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

Research, Program Development, and Broadcast Formats

Creativity and adaptability have been key strengths of Radio XETAR’s personnel and have facilitated the station’s growth.  Romo (1990) indicates that INI stations are expected to adhere to three maxims: participation, training, and evaluation. The first refers to proactive participation by the target audience i.e., indigenous communities that are provided meaningful opportunities to play a substantive role in determining the content of broadcasts, as opposed to a passive audience. The second refers to continuous training and adaptation to regional conditions and demands. Thirdly, evaluation is a means to enhance the quality of a station’s performance. The genesis and subsequent developmental facets of Radio XETAR reflect a strong adherence to those maxims.

An analysis of the Radio XETAR’s format and programming schedules (1991a and 1991b) indicates that programs cover several major themes and objectives:
  • Music submitted by various indigenous communities.
  • National and regional news such as the “Sierra Reporter,” which  contains news obtained from visits to target communities and  items submitted by the inhabitants of various communities.
  • Programs that  foster pride and unity in indigenous groups by discussing their history, philosophy, and culture.
  • Informational and technical programs produced by federal or  state agencies designed to improve health practices, farming  production, knowledge of legal rights, etc.
  • Music from various parts of Mexico that promotes the development  of national awareness and identity.
  • International music that brings the outside world to the Sierra Tarahumara.
  • Classical and children’s music.
  • Indigenous music obtained by station personnel on site or received by mail and other means from the target communities
  • Personal communications between individuals or groups who may need to convey emergency messages.
Program development at Radio XETAR often emanates from its diverse audience. Valencia Juárez (1989) reports that a network of 30 reporters from various communities mails or delivers, through various means, news, political information, air time requests for private messages, and musical selection requests. For example, federal medical facilities often act as conduits for information and requests. These entities use a short-wave radio communication network to relay messages to Radio XETAR, saving time and travel to the inhabitants of isolated areas in the Sierra Tarahumara. Some listeners still travel long distances on foot, over difficult terrain, to deliver requests for air time to some collection point such as the medical facilities.

Bennett and Zingg (1986) and Scheffler (1991) indicate that the Rarámuri conduct many ceremonies idiosyncratic to their culture, while also observing traditional Catholic holy days such as the Virgin of Guadalupe’s Birthday, All Saints and All Souls Days, and the week of Easter. The most celebrated holiday by the Rarámuri is Easter and its rituals reveal a fusion of indigenous and Hispanic culture. The Rarámuri typically converge on the nearest Catholic church to participate in a week of ceremonies and celebration that culminate with the traditional execution of a Judas/devil mannequin6 (Salopek, 1989). Other indigenous groups reached by Radio XETAR also tend to observe some of the aforementioned traditions, with some variations.

The cultural activities of indigenous groups, particularly their music, have been systematically recorded by Radio XETAR’s teams of announcers, researchers, and producers. The acquisition of musical folklore by the station’s personnel takes place mostly at the request of the indigenous groups. Performances by local musicians during ceremonies and festivals are recorded for posterity. Along with oral history interviews, speeches by leaders and philosophers are recorded. These recordings form the basis for several programs that are broadcast back to the contributing communities and others for recreation and edification. Listeners often request to hear music from their own communities. By acceding to their requests, Radio XETAR projects a positive cultural image of those communities and their proud musicians, and enables communities to initiate the development of site-specific programs. This strategy makes for culturally responsive broadcasting, one of the major goals of the INI radio network. In addition, this practice gives rise to new musical talent, who along with established musicians and storytellers, now have a wider audience and room for growth and development. Bodenstedt (1991) cites the case of Erasmo Palma, a composer from Norogachi whose music is now well known throughout the station’s reception range. His most recent compositions dwell on what it is like to be Rarámuri in Chihuahua and the universality of brotherhood. He wants his work recorded and published, a desire that begins to reveal the potential impact of radio on indigenous language, printed media, and cultural development.