Rebel Radio: The Story of El Salvador's Radio Venceremos

Rebel Radio: The Story of El Salvador's Radio Venceremos

Rebel Radio: The Story of El Salvador's Radio Venceremos

Rebel Radio: The Story of El Salvador's Radio Venceremos


All I had from Radio Venceremos was a poster on the wall and a poorly-recorded cassette, but I was fascinated by the legendary station. What sort of people worked there? How had they managed to keep a clandestine station on the air for so long, broadcasting from the depths of Morazán?

Whatever seems far away turns up right next door. While I was looking for them, they found me. They asked me to give them a course on radio production. A course for a guerrilla radio station? I accepted. Wherever and whenever, I'd be there.

I suspected that I would be the student. I could show them a few techniques, help them try out different formats. But they were the ones with the unique experience, built up over ten years of war, of doing radio with a microphone in one hand and a gun in the other, broadcasting underground and amid flying bullets.

After the workshops, they told me stories. They told me about the first programme they ran from Parra de Bambú, and how they broke through the army's encircling noose. How they tricked the enemy's goniometers, and how the correspondents reported from the front lines. I met the station's founders, heard about their love affairs in the Bat Cave, and learned the still relatively unknown truth of Monterrosa's death.

They were incredible stories. At first I listened with my mouth hanging open, then I turned on my tape recorder. Later I organised their testimonies chronologically, according to the different stages of the war. Stringing their stories together, this book was born. It's their book, not mine. They conceived it, gave it life in the heat of night-time conversations into a hidden mike. I just helped out with the birth.

Is the book about radio? About communications? I don't know. Radio Venceremos is present in all the stories, that's for sure. Each story touches on basic elements of what in Latin America we call popular and alternative media. Naturally, the working conditions were extreme, barely imaginable to broadcasters in air-conditioned studios with "Silence" written on the door.

Let's just say these are chronicles of the thousand and one adventures lived by the compas who made this radio station possible. Stories that aren't intended to prove anything. The book shows, it doesn't tell. It's up to the reader to discover the moral of each story.

Sometimes the voices overlap. An event is told by two or three people who lived through it. The fact is, I didn't worry much about who was doing the talking, only what they were saying. I respected the Salvadoran way of speaking, with all its "vulgarities". Guerrillas and soldiers tend not to speak by the dictionary. I hope the context explains the very Salvadoran expressions . . .

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