After finishing Peace Corps, my ex-wife and I spent six months traveling around South America in 1985. In mid-June we crossed the border to southern Bolivia from Argentina and took an overnight train to the mining center of Oruro. We also visited Cochabamba and the capital of La Paz before heading to Peru ten days later. We would have stayed longer but 1985 was the worst year ever for Bolivia’s typically unstable economy and the country was being wracked by labor strikes and food shortages. But I did manage to visit about a dozen Bolivian shortwave stations.
La Cruz del Sur was founded in 1949 by Canadian missionary Sydney H. Hillyer and the Canadian Baptist Mission. It broadcast on 4875 kHz shortwave for many years. My last log of it was in 2003.
Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Tracy Wood (K7UO), who shares the following guest post:
Bolivian Miners’ Radio Station Documentaries
Bolivian mine workers’ radio stations have long held an affinity among these Altiplano communities. Many were stations were targeted for shootings, bombings, etc. by forces loyal to earlier dictatorships. Today, few stations remain as the mining sector has declined in importance and newer generations migrate to the larger cities and lowland farming regions.
Radio Nacional de Huanuni and the Catholic church’s Radio Pio XII are two of the remaining miners’ stations with some long-standing shortwave presence; others like Chocaya’s Radio Ánimas permanently signed off with the mining center’s closing.
Two documentaries have been made about this earlier Bolivian miners’ broadcasting movement. The first one is a 30-minute 1983 UNESCO documentary entitled “La Voz del Minero” (“The Voice of the Miner”). This grainy 16-mm Spanish-language documentary fortunately has been ported to YouTube. The film features audio and video clips from several stations including Radio Nacional de Huanuni, Radio Pio XII, Radio Ánimas and Radio Vanguardia. Sharp eyes will notice at the 26-minute point a console-mounted Hammarlund HQ receiver in Radio Pio XII’s studios.
The second documentary is from 2017 but remains in limited release. It includes many interviews/images. The film is called “Las Voces del Socavón” (“Voices of the Tunnels) by Argentine filmmakers Magalí Vela Vázquez and Julia Delfini.
A larger complex topic read is the 2004 book by Alan O’Connor titled “Community Radio in Bolivia: The Miners’ Radio Station.” (Edwin Mellen Press Ltd, ISBN-13 978-0773463929).
As an aside, perhaps the most esoteric cinematic reference to shortwave can be found in Kiro Russo’s 2016 Bolivian mining-themed movie “Viejo Calavera” (Dark Skull). In one nighttime scene, Radio Pio XII (Siglo XX) plays in the background with announcer mentioning Pio XII is broadcasting their shortwave call-in show and getting DX reports from Sweden. (Sorry, this cool background banter is not subtitled to English.)
Finally, both documentaries feature the haunting song “El Minero” by Savia Andina sung in Spanish and Quechua. The best YouTube video of the song with Quechua-to-Spanish translation is found here:
Recently I have spent a little more time listening out for Tropical Band stations from my shack in Oxford UK, attempting to emulate some of the very nice signals I have previously recorded out on DX’peditions. The obvious problems with this (and they are numerous) include the relatively weak signal strength of many tropical band stations, the ubiquitous blanket of QRM, resulting in generally poor SNR, lack of space for a large antenna……need I go on?! Fortunately, the Elad FDM DUO has proven to be a very senstive and selective receiver, capable of, at times, incredible SNR, coupled with almost limitless signal conditioning options and SSB, SYNC, ECSS etc. Throw the Wellbrook ALA1530 active loop into the mix (not literally!) and you have a very powerful Tropical Band receive set-up. The Wellbrook is able to null most (although not all) QRM in my shack and that really can make the difference between simply observing a carrier and actually hearing audio. Clearly one cannot expect to hear DX at home under heavy QRM as well as you might outdoors, however, the following stations were logged in the past month or so, with respectable signals, with the ALA1530 indoors:
Clint Gouveia is the author of this post and a regular contributor to the SWLing Post. Clint actively publishes videos of his shortwave radio excursions on his YouTube channel: Oxford Shortwave Log. Clint is based in Oxfordshire, England.
For your listening pleasure: twenty minutes of Radio Santa Cruz.
I recorded Radio Santa Cruz early this morning around 10:00 UTC on 6,135 kHz using my WinRadio Excalibur.
As you’ll hear in the recording, Radio Santa Cruz‘s 10 kW signal from Santa Cruz, Bolivia, was very much audible here in North America–even punching through typical noisy summer band conditions (static crashes, etc.).