Tag Archives: South America

Guest Post: Brazil’s newly-formed “15.61 Crew”

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Martin Butera, who shares the following announcement for a new radio enthusiast group in Brazil:


The new 15 point 61 Crew

São Paulo is the largest city in Brazil, the Americas, and the seventh largest in the world, with a population of 11,300,000.

 

This was the stage for the meeting between Ivan Dias da Silva Junior (a recognized Brazilian radio listener with more than 27 years of experience and founder of the Regional DX) and his colleague, Martin Butera (a renowned amateur radio operator (LU9EFO – PT2ZDX), with 29 years of experience and currently a correspondent journalist for the British Dx Club, covering information from South America for the radio newsletter “Communication”).

The place of the meeting was not an accidental: we met in a noted coffee bar in the Republic Square–an iconic meeting point in São Paulo. Republic Square is located in the city center and is one of the most visited places in Brazil.

We founded the 15 point  61 Crew in São Paulo, on September 3, 2019.

The 15 point  61 Crew is not a DX club, nor a formal registered organization. We are just an informal group who like DXing.

What is the meaning behind our name? The number 15 is the dialing code of Sorocaba and  61 is the Brasília code, joining the two cities where the Crew founders are based–a distance of more than 900 km (Brazil is a huge country!).

The 15.61 Crew doesn’t have political or religious objectives. Our main objective is DXing, with an emphasis on organizing related activities: mainly DXcamps to be held in distant and exotic places, and bringing a new panorama of what is shared about DXing in our country.

We don’t have any kind of administration positions. The 15.61 Crew members are and always will be in equals.

To be a member of 15.61 Crew you just need to be active in our hobby, share information, write items, go with us to DXcamps, develop technical projects, etc.

As we aren’t a DXing club or organization, we will not have a website nor social media. We will share micro-books, especially about our activities through existing media, like the SWLing Post by our friend, Thomas Witherspoon, and by ourselves, because at the moment we are members of other radio related bulletin boards.

Our communication will be through an email address and a Paypal account for those who want to help us to continue developing our activities and also provide feedback on other projects (such as sharing content with other websites, thus creating a virtual collaboration for all).

For this purpose, we are currently developing several projects, such as a 15.61 Crew certificate program and different materials, such as caps, shirts, mugs, etc.

The 15.61 Crew members believe that there are so much things to be heard in the ether and we are prepared for it.

Ivan Dias da Silva Junior & Martin Butera

(15.61 Crew founders)

São Paulo, September 3, 2019


Thank you for sharing this Martin! I hope the 15.61 Crew enjoys some great success and champions a dynamic DX community! If you’re interested in joining this South American crew, contact Martin Butera.

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Guest Post: Bolivian Mining Radio

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Martin Butera, who shares the following guest post which was originally published in the June 2019 issue of the British DX Club magazine:


Bolivian Mining Radio

By Martin Butera

Radio Mineras Bolivianas are unique in the world, because they belonged to the unions of mining workers, and were created to defend the interests and the struggle of the workers’ movement.

Mining was fundamental in Bolivia long before the country reached its independence in 1825. When the Spanish conquistadores began to exploit the silver of Potosí in the 17th century they never imagined that there was such a quantity under the “silver mountain”. Bolivia’s exports were mainly based on silver and then tin, until the country’s economy was transformed in the last decades of the 20th century. For three centuries the silver extracted from Potosí was taken to Spain, until the mountain lost its original shape and gradually collapsed. It has been written that six million Aymara and Quechua Indians, plus a considerable number of African slaves, lost their lives in the mines during that period. Potosí was then one of the great cities of the western world. In 1625 it had a population greater than London or Paris, and more churches than any other city in the new world. Although isolated in the altiplano, at an altitude of 4,200 meters, in Potosí the most luxurious goods imported from Europe could be found.

From the independence of Bolivia in 1825 until the mid-1970s, mining continued to be the main economic activity generating income. Silver gradually became less important, but the country became the world’s second tin producer. In the mid-1950s minerals accounted for 70% of exports. A few thousand workers in the mining centres had on their shoulders the responsibility of sustaining the economy of the country and its five million inhabitants. No government could afford to ignore the political opinion of the miners, especially when their unions were reputed to be the most democratic and politically advanced in Latin America.

Station Resistance

The 1980 military coup of General Luis García Meza had triumphed in Bolivia, many citizens who resisted were killed or imprisoned, others escaped into exile. The army managed to completely control the cities. The first military objective was the media: all the radios, television channels and newspapers were closed and when they came to light again, it was under strict military censorship. Actually, not all radio stations …

The chain of approximately twenty stations in the mining districts of Potosí and Oruro, in the Bolivian highlands, continued transmissions under very high pressure. In order to know what was really happening in Bolivia after the coup, people searched the radio for the frequency of La Voz del Minero Radio Animas or Radio Pío XII. Even foreign correspondents based their news radios on mining radios. The army knew, that is why every day the troops came closer to the mining districts, breaking little by little the resistance of the workers who defended their stations with their lives.

Photo: The radio station door shattered by bullets, during the military coup of Garcia Meza

One of the last mining stations to fall under military control was Radio Animas. This is the transcript of the dramatic final live broadcast:

The troops are approximately five kilometres from Siete Suyos and very close to Santa Ana … so we are preparing to defend ourselves … The number of detainees reaches 31, who have been moved to the city of Tupiza according to the reports that have reached us … This is Radio Animas for all the south of the country … We are in this crucial hour, we are in constant mobilization, women have contributed greatly in the preparation of the defence … We will be to the last comrades, because that is our mission, to defend ourselves …

That was near the end. Minutes later shooting was heard at Radio Animas. The last thing the announcer managed to transmit was a message to the other stations, Pío XII and Radio Nacional de Huanuni, to take the signal and continue with the live broadcasts of the mining chain. Others continued until the army silenced the last one, destroying the equipment and killing those who defended their right to communicate.

La Voz del Minero, Radio Vanguardia de Colquiri, Radio Animas, Radio 21 de Diciembre, Radio Nacional de Huanunison are some of the radio stations created, financed and controlled by the mining workers of Bolivia.

In the Beginning

It all started around 1949, with a station that settled in the mining district of Catavi. During the following 15 years, other districts followed suit: they bought equipment, trained young people from the camps, financed by workers who gave a percentage of their salary to support the radio stations.

The stations started precariously, equipped with the bare minimum. Some managed to obtain international support and became more sophisticated broadcasters, with better equipment and facilities. Several even built an assembly hall next to the station, in order to broadcast the union meetings live. Radio Vanguardia decorated its living room with a large mural that tells the story of the Colquiri mining centre. A scene in the mural depicts the bombing of Bolivian Air Force aircraft in 1967, when the country was subjected to a military dictatorship.

At the beginning of the 1970s there were 26 stations in operation, almost all of them in the mining districts of the Bolivian highlands. At that time, the miners’ unions were still very important, considered as the political vanguard in Latin America.

In times of peace and democracy – which were not the most frequent – mining radios were integrated into the daily life of the communities. They functioned efficiently as alternatives to telephone and mail services. The people of the mining centres received their correspondence through the radio and sent messages of all kinds, which were read several times a day: calls for meetings of the Committee of Housewives, messages from the union leaders about their negotiations with the Government in the capital, messages of love between young people, sports activities, funerals, births and local festivities.

In times of political conflict, trade union radios became the only reliable source of information. While the military attacked newspapers radio and television stations in the cities, the only information available came through the mining radios. All of them joined in the “mining chain” until the army penetrated the mining districts and stormed the facilities, defended to the last by the workers. A movie of Jorge Sanjinés, El Coraje del Pueblo, rebuilds the  army attack in June 1967 in the mining district of Siglo XX and the seizure of union radio.

Click here to view on YouTube.

The mining radios were important insofar as the miners were important in the economy and politics of Bolivia. But also the influence of the miners grew during the decades in which they had at their disposal this powerful means of communication to express their ideas. As the importance of mining declined in the 1980s, trade unions weakened and many of the stations disappeared, at the same time the mines were closed.

Participatory Communication

The radio stations played a preponderant role in strengthening the mining unions in the struggle for unity. All unions were affiliated with the Bolivian Trade Union Federation of Mining Workers (FSTMB), which for four decades (1946 to 1986) was the vanguard of the powerful Bolivian Workers’ Central (COB). It is not simply coincidence that unions and radio stations shared premises in most of the mining districts, and that the union’s Secretary ofCulture was usually the director of the radio station.

The social impact of the radio stations of the mines was also important in the process of construction of a cultural identity in the mining centres and in the surrounding peasant communities. On a daily basis, the mining radios were open to participation. The visits to the stations were very frequent, whenever people needed to express themselves on any topic that affected their lives.

The most innovative in the experience of mining radios in Bolivia is community participation. The characteristics of this participation constituted a revolutionary event in the 1950s, as they still are today. Very few experiences of participatory communication have reached a level of total appropriation of a means of communication in terms of technology, day-to-day management, content and service to the community.

One of the most interesting aspects is that of training. The mining stations gave rise to new generations of journalists. The training was usually done locally, with the support of other organizations. Some journalists and broadcasters who began their professional activity in the mining radios later became well-known radialistas when emigrating to the cities.

The end of mining radio stations

Although the mining radios were oriented by the ideology of the unions, this did not represent an obstacle to participation insofar as they reflected the will of the workers. In the positions of responsibility of the union, leaders of different political parties were elected, but none of them intended to break the  sense of unity that was reflected in the radio programmes.

The real challenge of the mining radios was political repression, the same one that affected the mining class as a whole. Some stations were destroyed by the army six or seven times in the course of their existence. Several chose to preserve the traces of resistance on their walls: the bullet impacts received. Again and again, destroyed equipment was replaced by new equipment purchased with the contribution of the workers. Impoverished but worthy, they offered one day of their salary to their station.

Martin Butera with mining radio journalist (La Paz, Bolivia)

From the technical point of view, the mining stations suffered material deficiencies. The equipment of most of them was very elementary, although sufficient to carry out the work. When equipment was damaged it was repaired by local technicians who lacked the necessary replacement parts but were abundant in creativity. The low capacity to pay salaries to producers made the quality of programming low, especially in terms of educational content.

What finally caused the mining radios to end in the 1980s was the abrupt change in the country’s economy. Traditional mining ceased to be central in exports and the cost of producing tin was higher than the international price. The government closed state mines; workers moved to cities in search of employment, leaving ghost camps behind. The influence of the unions decreased, and few stations survived the transition to the new century.

On 28 August 2017, the Ministry of Mining presented a decoration to the directors of the mining radios that are still in force. The award also recognized the “high level of awareness of workers to convey their ideals against the editorial position of the commercial media that did not take into account these struggles.”

The Bolivian government recognized the mining radios for their contribution to the democratic political history, the defence of human rights and their consequences in defence of the working class and workers.

“One of the disastrous actions was when several military radios intervened in the military coup, the equipment was destroyed, many journalists and journalists were imprisoned, because the network of mining radios constituted a whole subversive network of communication for revolution and liberation. , that is why this type of media is important, “said the current Minister of Mining, Cesar Navarro Miranda, when he offered the tribute.

Likewise, he indicated that the political participation from the chain of mining radios in dictatorial processes was decisive for the return of democracy and that is why they constitute a political and democratic history, thanks to the sacrifice of the workers. Among those that stand out: Radio 21 December, National de Huanuni, Vanguardia de Colquiri, 16 March of the Bolívar mine, Ánimas and Chichas de Siete Suyos, among others. The event was nuanced with musical participation achieving great emotion among the participants.

One of the few survivors

On 24 June Huanuni National Radio will be 60 years old. The historic National Radio of Huanuni, one of the first miner-union radios in Bolivia, recognized for its active participation in the country’s social struggles, is ready for its re-launch with a powerful team and state support.

Now with a modern FM equipment (and on 92.5 MHz), it will be a witness to the new Huanuni radio that emerged to the ether in the 1950’s and was a faithful witness of the struggle of the mining unions and the popular classes.

Respondent since its birth, Radio Nacional de Huanuni became the inseparable companion of the workers of this mining centrw who bled tin for the benefit of the great powers and the so-called “tin barons”.

Since then, the union radio station has written an unprecedented story in Bolivia, as an inseparable companion of the workers’ struggles and vanguard of the resistance of the miners against totalitarian regimes between 1964 and 1982.

Also as a school of Bolivian broadcasting, by the passage of the brightest speakers and budding journalists by their microphones. Because of the station’s irrefutable identification with the social movements it suffered several attempts to silence its voice, through dictatorial governments that destroyed equipment and assassinated several miners.

Like the one perpetrated in 1967 in the ferocious massacre of San Juan when military forces razed all their equipment and looted their nightclub when the radio accompanied and encouraged a mining protest against the government of President René Barrientos Ortuño.

www.radionacionaldehuanuni.com

Documentaries

First documentary about one of the most important historical experiences of participatory communication: the radio stations of the mining workers of Bolivia. Made in 1983 for UNESCO by Eduardo Barrios and Alfonso Gumucio Dagron, in 16 mm.

Click here to view on YouTube.

Voices of the Socavón Two Argentines produced a documentary that highlights the struggle of mining radios in Bolivia during the dictatorships. Voces del Socavón, a production made by Argentine filmmakers Julia Delfini and Magalí Vela Vázquez and is about the radio La voz del minero from the Siglo XX mine in Potosí, which was the first station financed and controlled by workers, and a pioneer in America Latina

The voices of the tunnel tells the story of Bolivia’s mining radios, led by La Voz del Minero, and its role in the workers’ union struggle during the second half of the 20th century. The protagonists of this story, union leaders, women of the Housewives Committee, miners and announcers, relate the historical events they went through in search of the Bolivian workers’ revolution. The

film links the culture within the mining camps, accompanied by the poetry and stories of the famous Uruguayan writer Eduardo Galeano, in what is one of his last interviews.

Here you can see his trailer https://youtu.be/HUM40UGEQTA

Mining Radio Stations Today

Currently of the more than 20 mining radios that operated in the country of Bolivia, only three of them are on air. These are Radio Nacional de Huanuni (Huanuni- Oruro), Radio Vanguardia (Colquiri- La Paz) and Radio 16 de Marzo (Bolívar-Oruro).

National Radio of Huanuni (Huanuni-Oruro), that used to transmit by short wave, is on FM (94.5 MHz) and online: www.radionacionaldehuanuni.com/

Photos of Radio Vanguardia’s building and transmitter:

Radio Vanguardia of Colquiri, owned by the mining workers of that district, currently has a new transmitter on medium wave 1270 kHz with a power of 3 kW and an FM transmitter, 98.3 MHz with a power of 1 kW. The AM signal can be heard in the remotest corners of the department of La Paz and even nationwide.

About the author

Martín Butera is a journalist, documentary maker and founding member of Radio Atomika 106.1 MHz (Buenos Aires, Argentina) www.radioatomika.com.ar

Photo: Martín Butera visiting, Radio Club La Paz Bolivia CP1AA

Martín Butera

He is an Amateur Radio operator with more than 29 years of experience, and has participated in DXpeditions throughout South America, with the Argentine radio callsign LU9EFO and Brazilian callsign PT2ZDX.

It is to collaborate for the newsletter of the British Dx Club (United Kingdom).

Martin is Argentinian, born in the city of Buenos Aires capital. He currently lives in Brasilia DF, capital of Brazil

About the The British DX Club

This guest post by Martin Butera was originally published in the June 2019 issue of “Communication” magazine of the prestigious The British DX Club. It is now available for free from the club site http://bdxc.org.uk/, remembering that like this report many other very interesting ones can be downloaded.

We congratulate Martín Butera for this interesting report, as well as his editor Chrissy Brand.

If you would like to be a member of the Briitish DX Club, you can find information here http://bdxc.org.uk/apply.html


`Thank you for this fascinating look at the history of Bolivian Mining Radio, Martin!


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Radio Travel: A complete SDR station for superb portable DXing

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Don Moore–author of  Following Ghosts in Northern Peru–for the following guest post:


One of my favorite DXing locations was this little cottage at the El Rancho Hotel just outside San Ramon, on the edge of the Amazon jungle in Peru. At $18/night, including breakfast, the hotel was a bargain, and there was plenty of room for my delta loop.

A Guide To Vagabond DXing

By Don Moore

Ever since I served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Honduras in the early 1980s, Latin America has been my primary focus for both DXing and traveling. So when I retired in 2017, my main goal was to begin taking long annual trips . . . and I do mean long. From October 2017 to May 2018, I traveled through Peru, Ecuador, and Colombia visiting about fifty different towns and cities. This year, I’m on a five-month trip through southern South America. In Latin America you can get just about anywhere cheaply and easily by bus, so that’s how I get around. It’s also a great way to meet people and to see the countryside. But luggage can become a burden, so I limit myself to a single mid-sized wheeled suitcase and a large knapsack. And that means that my mobile DX shack has to be very carefully planned.

Your plans may not include multi-month odysseys like mine, but I think my experiences will help you prepare to DX on your next trip, wherever it might be. Of course, what makes a good mobile DX shack depends on what your DX interests are. I consider myself a station collector, in that I want to make loggings of lots of new and different stations and to build up an understanding of radio broadcasting in different regions. So on my travels I concentrate on the medium wave broadcast band and longwave beacons, with maybe little bit of shortwave utility DX. (There’s not much on shortwave broadcast that I can’t also hear at home.)

Take the DX Home With You

For years my standard DX travel gear was a Sony ICF-2010, a cassette recorder, and an old Radio West ferrite loop antenna. But listening time was always limited since it was a vacation. There were other activities on the agenda and I was generally too tired to get up early for DXing. I always went home with some interesting loggings and audio recordings, but once I left for home the DXing was done.

SDRs have changed all that and now my first rule of travel DX now is take the DX home. The best souvenir of a trip is the hundreds of hours of DXing that I take home with me. In a 2016 trip to central Colombia, I made about 300 MB of recordings of the medium wave band. While listening to them later I logged over 400 stations from twenty countries (and I still have about half the files to go through). I never would have even gotten close to that many stations listening on my Sony like an ‘old-fashioned’ DXer, hi!

Lately, I’ve been accumulating SDR files much faster than I could possibly go through them, so it’s a fair question to ask what the point is. When will I ever listen to them all? Like most DXers, I’m not fortunate enough to live in a perfect DX location. When conditions are mediocre, I’d rather spend my DXing time going through some more interesting SDR files.  And, I know I’ll have lots of good DX waiting for me years from now when I’m no longer able to travel the way that I do now. For me, SDR recordings make much better souvenirs that some cheap tourist trinkets that will gather dust on a shelf. It doesn’t matter whether your travels take you to a nearby park or to a distant continent. SDRs can preserve the DXing experience for years to come.

My Mobile DX Shack

This is my typical DXing setup with the Afedri. The rooftoop terrace at the Hotel Rosa Ermila ($10/night) in Cascas, Peru was the most elegant place I’ve ever DXed from, but reception was only average with the PA0RDT dangling from the railing.

The centerpiece of any DX shack is the receiver. On my 2017-18 trip, I had an Afredri SDR-Net with an SDRPlay RSP1 as a backup, but this year I replaced the Afedri with an Elad FDM-2. Together, my two SDRs are smaller than all but the smallest portable receivers. Of course I also need a laptop, but I’m going to take one anyway. An important consideration in selecting a travel SDR is to get something that is powered off the laptop’s USB connection so that it is easy to DX totally off battery power if line noise becomes an issue.

The other vital component of DXing is the antenna. A good on-the-road antenna for SDR DXing has to be small, easy to erect, broadband, and versatile. That sounds like a lot to ask, but the perfect DX travel antennas do exist.

For compactness and ease of use, nothing can surpass the PA0RDT mini-whip. How good is it? That’s what I used to log over 400 medium wave stations in Colombia in 2016. I just attached the unit to my coax and threw it about three meters up into a short tree. The antenna works best when mounted away from nearby structures, but sometimes I’ve gotten decent results placing the PA0RDT on balconies and windowsills of tall buildings. It’s mostly a matter of luck as to how bad the local noise levels in the building are and how much the building itself may block signals. Using a short support, such as a broom or a hiking pole, it may be possible to mount the unit a meter or so away from the building.

While it’s best to mount the PA0RDT away from obstructions, the antenna might give good results anywhere, even on the neighbor’s roof. (Just make sure it’s not likely to get stuck. Pulling the unit out of a stubborn papaya tree is no joke.)

The biggest drawback of the PA0RDT for serious MW and LW DXing is that it is non-directional. For a directional antenna, a Wellbrook loop is great if you’re traveling by car, but that one-meter diameter aluminum loop doesn’t fit in my suitcase. Fortunately, a few years ago Guy Atkins and Brett Saylor told me about an alternative: buy a Wellbrook ALA-100LN unit and attach it to a large homemade wire loop. Now my travel kit includes two nine-meter lengths and one eighteen-meter length of #18 stranded copper wire. The wires can be spliced together for loops of 9, 18, 27, or 36 meters circumference, according to what fits in a location. Erection of a wire loop is easy enough with a suitable tree branch. I just throw the wire over the branch and then form it into delta (with the bottom running just above the ground) using two tent stakes and some short cord to hold the corners. The ALA-100LN unit goes in the bottom center.

Items that go in my suitcase, left to right: tent stakes and wire for the Wellbrook loop, a small box with more adapters, another battery box, 50 foot coax, 12 foot coax, and my hiking pole. The pole doubles as a support for the PA0RDT sometimes.

The loop doesn’t have to be in a delta; that’s just often the easiest to erect. I’ve successfully used squares, rectangles, trapezoids, oblong diamonds, and right angle triangles. Any balanced shape with the ALA-100LN in the bottom center should be bi-directional in a figure-eight pattern. Non-balanced shapes will work equally well but with unpredictable directionality. Just keep the wire in a single plane and place the ALA-100LN unit someplace along the bottom.

Both the PA0RDT and the Wellbrook require a 12V power supply. The North American version of the Wellbrook comes with an excellent noise-free 110V power supply, but that’s of no use in 220V countries and also I want to be able to DX totally off battery power when necessary. Fortunately both antennas use the same size power connector, so I carry three eight-cell AA battery packs for remote power.

Contents of the DX box, clockwise from upper left: the two pieces of the Wellbrook ALA-100LN, the two pieces of the PA0RDT mini-whip, two 8xAA battery boxes and a set of batteries, USB and coax cables, a passive 4-way antenna splitter, battery tester, various adapters and cup hooks (for securing wires), 4TB hard drive, the SDRPlay RSP1, the Elad FDM-2, and more short patch cords.

My mobile DX shack is rounded out with everything that is needed to connect the parts together. I have at least four of every adapter and patchcord, since I know they won’t be easy to replace on the road. For lead-ins, I have 12-foot and 50-foot lengths of lightweight coax with BNC connectors. I also have a few F-to-BNC adapters so I could buy some standard TV coax if needed. A 4 TB hard drive provides plenty of space the SDR recordings I plan to make. (Before leaving, I fill it with videos that I can delete after I watch them or when I need space.) For DX references, I download various station lists online so that I have them available even if I don’t have an Internet connection. It’s also important to keep those lists with the SDR files from the trip so that if I’m listening to the files years from now I’ll have references which were current at the time.

Airport Security

A common concern for traveling DXers is getting through airport security. When I went to Colombia in 2016, I wrapped my DX gear in clothing for protection and then stuffed everything into my backpack. Security didn’t like what they saw and I had to empty the bag so that every single item could be examined and swabbed for explosive residue. The TSA lady was very nice about it, but I wanted to minimize the chance of that happening again.

At an office supply store I found a plastic storage box that fits inside the main pocket of my backpack. My SDRs, antenna components, and hard drive get wrapped in bubble wrap and all placed together in the box along with small cables, adapters, etc. Larger items – the wire, coax, and stakes for the loop – get packed in my checked bag.

The DX Box packed and ready to go.

At the airport, I slide the box out of my backpack, place it into a cloth shopping bag, and then send it through the X-Ray machine on its own so that the agent can get a close look at the contents. So far in about a dozen security checks in the USA, Peru, and Mexico, the box of gear hasn’t caused so much as a pause on the conveyor belt. And, if the box would get pulled for a closer look, at least I won’t have to empty the entire backpack again.

Most of my equipment fits in this plastic box which slides into my backpack.

Where to DX

A mobile DX shack isn’t worth anything without a suitable place to DX from. Hotels may work if you have a balcony where you can put a small antenna, but more likely than not there’ll be problems with RF noise. The best hotels are ones that are a collection of cottages or bungalows or that otherwise have an open yard-like space for an antenna. My favorite place to find possible DXing sites is on AirBnB. It’s often easy to find AirBnBs that are on the edge of town or even in the countryside with lots of space. Of course, since I don’t have a car, I need to make sure I can get there using public transportation.

While visiting Huanchaco, Peru with DX friends Karl Forth and John Fisher, we had a beach-front apartment with an adjoining rooftop terrace. We had excellent results with an oblong loop and the ALA-100LN on the terrace.

The key to selecting a DX location is to examine all the photos very carefully. Is there open space for the antennas? Are there trees or other potential supports? Is there a gazebo, terrace, or other space that could be used for DXing? Google satellite view and Google street view can be very helpful in scouting out a location (And it’s surprising how much of South America is now on Google Street View.)  And, I always look for possible noise sources. One place I almost rented in Colombia turned out to have high voltage power lines running next door when I found it on Street View.

I always tell the hotel staff or AirBnB host what I’m doing so that they understand why the gringo has wires running around. And I make sure not to put my antennas or coax anywhere that might interfere with the employees or other guests. Most of the time I’m able to erect the antenna near my room and run the lead-in into my room through a window. Then I can leave my laptop running all night to make scheduled SDR recordings. That’s the Holy Grail of DXing – catching the overnight DX while you sleep. But if my room turns out to have too much RF noise (as has been the case a few times), then I head out to the gazebo or terrace to DX using battery power.  That does mean I have to stay up late or get up early since I can’t leave the laptop outside on its own. But, some of the best DX that I’ve had has come from running off full battery power in gazebos.

My delta loop had plenty of space at the Posada de Sauce ($25/night with breakfast) in the jungle near Tarapoto, Peru. The lodge was totally powered by solar panels and was one of the quietest places I’ve ever DXed from.

Antenna security is another consideration. At one place I stayed I wasn’t comfortable leaving my expensive antenna components unattended outside all night. And then there was what happened on my first trip to Colombia in 2010. I knew that a place I would be staying at for two nights had an open field right behind it, so on that trip I took 500 feet of thin insulated wire for a mini beverage-on-the-ground. DXing was great the first night but terrible the second. When I went out the next morning to wind up the wire I learned why. The worker who had been weed-wacking the hotel gardens the previous day had also done the field, and in doing so he had cut my wire in three places. He had, however, very nicely tied the wires back together.

Share the DX

DXing off battery power in the gazebo in the Mauro Hilton Hostel in the mountains above Manizales, Colombia. The antenna was the PA0RDT thrown in a tree. I had great DX with the loop from my room, but I came here to enjoy the views one evening.

Finally, if you take an SDR on a trip and get some good DX, make a selection of your files available for download. Other DXers will enjoy hearing what the band sounds like somewhere else. Several dozen of my files from Peru, Ecuador, and Colombia are available for download in a shared Google Drive folder. If you see something you want, be sure to download it now. The winter DX season is just starting here in deep South America and in the coming weeks I’ll be replacing some of those older files with ones made in Argentina and maybe in Uruguay and southern Brazil. I’ve found a lot of places to stay that look to be perfect for a vagabond DXer.

Links

For fun, here are some of the better places I DXed from in Peru, Ecuador, and Colombia. The key thing to look for is an open place for the antennas:


Don, thank you so much for sharing your travel DXing expertise. This article is absolutely brilliant and so informative for anyone who wishes to make SDR field recordings. I love how carefully you’ve curated and distilled your portable setup and have given priority to having antennas for all occasions. I also think carrying spare parts and, especially, a spare SDR makes a lot of sense.

Post Readers:  As we mentioned in a previous post, Don is an author and has recently published “Following Ghosts in Northern Peru: In the Footsteps of 19th Century Travelers on the old Moyobamba Route” which is available in Kindle and print formats via Amazon.

Purchasing through this Amazon link supports both the author and the SWLing Post.

Click here to check out other guest posts by Don Moore.


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Guest Post: A Visit to Radio Tarma


Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Don Moore–author of  Following Ghosts in Northern Peru–for the following guest post:


A Visit To Radio Tarma

By Don Moore

(Note: A more extensive set of photos from Radio Tarma, and other Peruvian radio stations, can be found at Don’s website. The website also contains details of the Peruvian travelogue book he recently wrote and published.)

Radio Tarma building

Shortwave stations in South America are few and far-between these days, but those of us who have been tuning the bands for a few decades remember the days when the tropical bands were filled with Latin American broadcasters from dozens of scattered mountain and jungle towns. One such place was Tarma, a picturesque but chilly city of about 50,000 nestled in a narrow valley in the central Peruvian Andes at 3,000 meters above sea level. Tarma has been an important commercial center since colonial times and archaeological findings indicate that the region was heavily populated long before the Spanish came. Today it sits at the junction of two major trade routes, so it continues to be a bustling place.

View of northern Tarma from the Radio Tarma transmitter site

While wandering around central Peru in April 2018, I made a point of stopping in Tarma so as to visit the town’s namesake broadcaster, Radio Tarma, one of the few Peruvian stations still on shortwave. Radio Tarma’s frequency of 4775 kHz has been a fixture on the sixty meter band for over four decades. What I didn’t know was that this would turn out to be the best of the over one hundred Latin American station visits that I have made in my travels.

Radio Tarma Frequencies

When I first stopped by on Monday afternoon, everyone was busy and no one had time for a visiting gringo. By chance I had arrived on the station’s sixtieth anniversary and they were preparing for a big celebration that night. I was invited to come back in the evening when there would be a huge street party with live music. That evening I got to talk to several members of the station staff and was introduced to owner-manager Mario Monterverde, who invited me to come back for a tour in two days after the celebrations and ceremonies were over.

Radio Tarma’s 60th Anniversary Party

The Radio Tarma Party Band

Radio Tarma Owner/Manager Mario Monteverde

The reason for Radio Tarma’s continued presence on the sixty meter band is Mario Monteverde, Radio Tarma’s energetic owner-manager.

Mario Monteverde in the old record library.

Running radio stations is his passion, and that includes reaching distant listeners on shortwave. Don Mario remembers what shortwave used to be like in Peru and he can rattle off station names and frequencies from past and present as good as any serious DXer. We spend a lot of time talking about stations I used to hear and the ones that I visited in my 1985 trip to Peru. We mostly talk in Spanish, although he speaks English well. He studied in Lima and later in the United States for several months. In the 1980s, he lived in San Francisco for a year while working as a DJ at a Spanish language FM station.

Don Mario thinks that it’s unfortunate that there is so little use of shortwave in Peru today, but other radio station owners think he is crazy to continue to use shortwave. The only listeners to shortwave in Peru are peasants in jungle settlements and remote mountain valleys. That may be a suitable audience for a religious broadcaster, but these listeners have no value to commercial stations, such as Radio Tarma, as they are mostly outside the money economy and of no interest to advertisers. But Don Mario doesn’t care and so Radio Tarma continues to broadcast on shortwave several hours every morning and evening for whoever might happen to tune in.

Studio for Radio Tarma

And, Radio Tarma can afford to broadcast as it sees fit. Don Mario’s Grupo Monteverde is one of the most professionally run and profitable communications companies that I have visited in Peru. In addition to Radio Tarma (on MW, FM, and SW), the company operates two television stations in Tarma, the local cable network, the local FM repeater for Radio Programas del Peru (Peru’s radio news network), and Radio Tropicana, a chain of FM music stations in Tarma and three nearby towns.

(Click here to open video in separate window.)

Founded in 1958 by Mario’s father, Radio Tarma was the first radio station in this city. Using two homemade 500 watt transmitters, the station initially broadcast on both medium wave and 6045 kHz shortwave, but the shortwave went off the air after about a year. Then in 1978, Mario’s father dusted off the old shortwave transmitter and applied for a new license. He was granted 4770 kHz, but that was soon changed to 4775 kHz, where Radio Tarma has been ever since. In the past four decades, Radio Tarma has been logged by thousands of DXers all over the world and, although it’s hard to believe, when I visited Tarma in April 2018 they were still using that original 500 watt transmitter that Mario’s father built sixty years before. However, a new one-thousand watt solid state transmitter was currently in Lima being tested by the Ministry of Transport and Communications. It should be on the air by now.

Studio for Radio Tropicana’s Tarma station

Don Mario starts by giving me a tour of the station building and its well-equipped offices and studios. He shows me the closet where the transmitter for the studio-to-transmitter-site link is and then takes me  upstairs to the record library. Radio Tarma has one of the largest and oldest collections of vinyl records in the Peruvian Andes and includes numerous rare recordings. Many of the disks are EPs, or extended-play, which was once a very common format in the Andes. These records are the size of a 45 but recorded at 33 rpm so that there are two songs on each side. Don Mario keeps the records for their value but they aren’t used on the air anymore as Radio Tarma and its sister stations are all fully computerized. When there’s time they work on digitizing the better historical recordings from their collection.

Radio Tarma mountaintop transmitter site

After seeing the studio, we get in Don Mario’s four-wheel drive SUV for the trip up a steep and winding dirt road that leads to the mountaintop transmitter site. For most of the station’s history, Radio Tarma broadcast from a field on the north side of town.

Radio Tarma’s pre-2012 transmitter site was in the large field in the center of this photograph.

Then in 2010 Don Mario decided to modernize by buying a modern 3000 watt solid-state transmitter for the medium wave frequency and by building a modern transmitter facility on a ridge overlooking town. The new site, which was inaugurated in 2012, is at 3,600 meters elevation (over 600 meters higher than Tarma) and located about 1.5 kilometers south of the old site. (If you’ve logged Radio Tarma both before and after 2012, I think it’s fair to count these as two different transmitter sites.)

Radio Tarma’s mountaintop transmitter plant.

Another view of Radio Tarma’s mountaintop transmitter plant.

Radio Tarma MW and FM masts

The transmitters and antennas for all the Grupo Monteverde stations in Tarma (MW, FM, SW, and TV) are housed in the gray fortress-like cement building covered with a jungle of antennas and satellite dishes, for both receiving and transmitting. All of Peru’s main cellular services have towers nearby, as do several other FM and TV stations in Tarma, but Radio Tarma has the best location, right at the end of the ridge overlooking all of the town. For shortwave, Radio Tarma uses a dipole antenna strung between two masts.

Radio Tarma’s shortwave dipole

The transmitters and other technical equipment are all housed in a large room that takes up most of the first floor of the building. Upstairs there is a small apartment, complete with a living room and kitchen, for the technician who lives here plus another small apartment where Don Mario comes to stay when he feels like escaping to the quiet mountaintop for a night or two.

Radio Tarma SW and three MW transmitters

Radio Tarma transmitter room

Don Mario takes pride in showing me the original 500 watt medium wave and shortwave transmitters that his father made. Normally the shortwave service is shut down for several hours in midday when the frequency won’t propagate, but he turns on the transmitter so that I can see the tubes come to life. The three medium wave transmitters – the original 500 watt one, its 1978 1000 watt replacement, and the new 300 watt solid-state one – are lined up against the wall adjacent to the shortwave transmitter.

Mario Monteverde and Radio Tarma’s original 500 watt shortwave transmitter

Alfonso, transmitter operator at Radio Tarma

Don Mario tells me that the two older medium wave transmitters are regularly maintained so that they could be used at a moment’s notice if needed. He then proceeds to show me that he means just what he says, and shuts down the solid-state transmitter. Once that’s down, he powers up the original Radio Tarma MW transmitter that his father made, and we watch the old tubes light up. Then when it’s operating fully, he turns his father’s transmitter off and switches on the 1978 transmitter for a few minutes before finally returning the signal to full power on the new transmitter. One wonders just what his listeners thought was happening with all this on-and-off transmitting on a beautiful sunny day barely a cloud in the sky!

View of southern Tarma from the transmitter site

Radio Tarma and the Grupo Monteverde are a model operation for radio in smaller cities in the Peruvian Andes. Getting to know both the city and the station was one of the highlights of a seven-month journey through the northern Andes in South America.

Don Mario’s father built the foundation and Don Mario turned Radio Tarma and its sister stations into the small but professional media group that they are. He’s now in his mid-sixties and plans to run the radio operations for several more years. But he is beginning to think of the future. He never married and has no children, his siblings live in Spain and Lima, and all his nieces and nephews are in the United States. It’s not likely that anyone in the family would return to Tarma to run a radio station. He is investigating options of how to set up the corporation so that Radio Tarma and its sister stations would continue as locally-owned and operated radio broadcasters. Whatever he works out, let’s hope it includes a commitment to continue broadcasting on shortwave for many years to come!

If shortwave conditions aren’t the best, you can always listen to Radio Tarma on the web.


Wow–Don, this was amazing. Thank you for taking us on a tour of the amazing Radio Tarma! What a special station to encounter during your travels!

Post Readers: If you like the photos Don included in this guest post, you’ll enjoy browsing even more on Don’s Radio Tarma page

Check out other radio travel photos’ on Don’s Peru DX Photos Page.

Don’s new book, Following Ghosts in Northern Peru: In the Footsteps of 19th Century Travelers on the old Moyobamba Route is available in Kindle and print formats via Amazon.

Purchasing through this Amazon link supports both the author and the SWLing Post. 

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Guest Post: Roland Raven-Hart’s reception of a U.S. broadcaster in South America made headlines in 1923

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Horacio Nigro (CX3BZ) who shares the following guest post which was originally published in his blog “La Galena del Sur” (in Spanish). Horacio recently translated his article into English for us:


1923: The first reception of a U.S. broadcaster in South America.

by Horacio A. Nigro, CX3BZ,
Montevideo, Uruguay, “La Galena del Sur”

On the night of October 30-31, 1923, Engineer Roland Raven-Hart, a British Army Major located in the Andes mountains on the Argentina-Chile frontier, heard  a U.S. broadcast station (and thus an overseas station) for the first time in South America, an event that made the headlines in the specialized press of that time.

It was the first time that the famous KDKA, Pittsburgh, USA, was heard in South America.

Major Roland Raven-Hart was born in Glenalla, Ireland.  He was trained as an engineer, and at the outbreak of World War I he enlisted in the the British Army.  He was assigned to the General Staff, and served on sensitive missions in France, Belgium, Russia, Italy, Palestine, Sudan, Syria, Egypt, etc.  At one point he installed an antenna on one of the pyramids of Egypt that allowed him to quickly communicate with the staff.

Ing. Roland Raven-Hart. (1889-1971). Major of the British Army. He was member of the Institute of Radio Engineers and the American Institute of Electric Engineers.

As a consequence of his outstanding performance, several allied governments gave him merit awards, such as Officer of the Order of the British Empire, Croix de Guerre from France, Order of St. Stanislaus of Russia, etc.

When peace was restored, and with the rank of major, he asked to be released to travel for rest and study in Buenos Aires, Argentina, where the Pacific Railroad Administration allowed him to study wireless.  This continued after the Trans-Andean railway arrived in the mountain village of Los Andes, where he had installed his famous amateur radio station 9TC.

He had good DX, and on this date, achieved a distance record for broadcast reception between North and South.

In fact, the Argentinian “Revista Telegráfica”, a magazine edited in Buenos Aires, Argentina, reported the following news in its October 1923 edition:

REMARKABLE RECORD

At press time, we get the following report.  The news could not be more sensational.  It has been possible to receive a North American broadcasting station at a distance of approximately 8,300 kilometers!.

It is an event that marks a new era in our modern history of radio.  Using the pseudonym “John English” is a distinguished engineer who deserves our absolute faith.

Indeed, “John English”, pseudonym of Roland Raven-Hart, reported:

Radiotelephony up to 8,300 kilometers. – Reception tests in Los Andes (Chile) and Puente del Inca (Mendoza). – Interesting observations.

In Los Andes (Chile) on the night of October 30-31 I received a complete program from a station announcing as “KDKA – Pittsburg ‘classical music, jazz and comedy, all in English.  I think this must be a record, being a distance of more or less 8,300 kilometers.

The apparatus used is a “Western Electric”, with a high [frequency] amplification, detector and low [frequency]amplification, with a phone of the same brand.

The antenna was 20 meters long and 5 meters high on a zinc roof”.

He does not mention the frequency or wavelength.  The Westinghouse station was operating on the frequency of 920 kHz at that time , but it is also likely that he received it on shortwave via station 8XS, which began simulcasting KDKA mediumwave in July 1923 on the 60 meter band.

KDKA

Raven-Hart was enjoying reception at the time, but from local stations:

During the month of October I have heard the following stations, and will have much pleasure in giving news about the reception quality, etc.  My address for letters:  Supte. [abreviation of Super Intendent], Telégrafos F. C. T. Los Andes (Chile).

Buenos Aires ……. Radio Cultura, Radio Sud América

Montevideo ……… Paradizábal, R. Sudamérica

Tucumán ………….. Radio Club, San Pablo, « R. P. F. »

Rosario ……………. Radio Club

San Juan ………….. “340” , Pekam

Villa Maria ………… Radio Coen .

Bahia Blanca ……… Dr. Cattaneo ( CW . Telegrafía ) .

As promised, I detail the results of my tests at my facilities for October 17- 21 from Puente del Inca ( Mendoza ), with a “Western Electric” receiver, one tube for high frequency reception, detector, and one tube for low frequencies.

The weather was variable, cloudy and snowing on the 21st.  Static was relatively strong on days 17-19, but there was little static on the 20th and 21st.

Radio Cultura and Radio Sudamérica [Buenos Aires] were also heard during the day, the first with the headphones on the table.

Sociedad Radio Argentina, 1100 kilometers away, was received well at night.

From Montevideo, 1300 kilometers, I got Paradizábal and Radio Sudamérica, and also the following:

Radio Club of Villa María (Cordoba ), 650 kilometers;

Radio Club de Tucumán, 850 km;

Station 340, San Juan, 200 kilometers, daytime, and Radio Pekam;

Station 394, Rio Cuarto (Cordoba), (initial number somewhat dubious ), 550 km

Radio Club of Rosario de Santa Fe, 900 km;

Radio Chilena de Santiago de Chile, with headphones on the table and at a distance of 120 meters [sic](1) ;

A. B. C., Viña del Mar (Chile).

My antenna is too long, allowing me to listen to only a few amateurs, but I will try again.

As always, during their conversations various radioamateurs did not give their names.

I think it is interesting to make three observations:  1) there are stations on the frequencies of Radio Sud América, Radio Cultura and Paradizábal, causing heterodynes, so it is impossible to receive one station without the other; 2) several of th smaller stations produce noise from the generator, or the rectified AC, that is louder than the music they broadcast, with horrible results; and 3) several stations produce carrier waves equal to or stronger than that of Radio Cultura, but the modulation is so low that the voice is barely heard.

In my view, there are stations that could double their transmission range if they paid more attention to their modulation than to the current at the antenna.

I do not mention the stations, but I’ll be glad to answer directly to the abovementioned amateur stations if they contact me at:  “Superintendent of Telegraphs. F. C. Transandino. Mendoza.”

 -John English

Broadcasting station HA9, Villa María, Córdoba, Argentina. “one of the best of the countryside”. (1925).

Mr. Raven-Hart, was in fact an active chronicler of the pioneering radio activity that had been developed at that time in the Southern Cone of America.

By the end of May 1926, he returned to Europe, spending some time in Spain and Italy. Then, he travelled to the U.S., where he was received by the organized amateur radio community in this country as a representative of the South American hams, in recognition of the 9TC success.  He returned to Buenos Aires in 1927.

It is worth mentioning his impressions on his European tour.  He summarized the status of radio in Europe in two words:  “Little news”.   However, he commented  on the “new” Loewe brand of vacuum tubes, which he had the opportunity to test, “as detector and dual audio frequency amplification at the same time”, with results that he described as wonderful.  He also found good broadcast programming.  As to the receiving apparatus in use, he considered that it was“inferior to that used in the U.S. and Argentina and much more complicated”.

In 1932 he retired from his engineering profession, and traveled to Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) to do canoeing.  Actually, he navigated more than 15,000 miles of the rivers in the world, using a folding canoe.

One of the books authored by R. Raven-Hart

During World War II, Roland James Raven-Hart was one of the 766 Argentine volunteers serving the Allied cause.

Roland’s life was undoubtedly an exciting global adventure.  It is said that he was a friend of Colonel T. E. Lawrence (“of Arabia”) working for the Intelligence Department, and he seems to have been at least partly responsible for convincing the famous writer Arthur C. Clarke (author of “2001 A Space Odyssey”), a communications engineer colleague, to settle and live in Ceylon:

En route from Australia the ship docked in Sri Lanka (then Ceylon), where Clarke met Major R. Raven-Hart, OBE.  “A remarkable linguist and lover of exotic places, cultures and customs,” said Clarke.  “It was my first introduction to the fabulous Orient.  I’ve been here, more or less, ever since”.

He was the author of several books, especially about his canoeing activities, and he wrote an article in collaboration with composer Lennox Berkeley entitled “Wireless Music”.

In December 1923 KDKA would be rebroadcast in Great Britain, and had even been received in Hawaii, and later, on March 25, 1924, KDKA broadcast entirely in Castilian for the South American nations .

In early 1924 it would be heard for the first time in Uruguay.

Sources:

-Originally published in my blog “La Galena del Sur”, (in Spanish).

-Special acknowledgment goes to Mr. Jerry S. Berg, USA,  for helping with the best translation of the original article.


Amazing story, Horacio! Thank you for taking the time to translate this fine article into English!

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Brazilian DX heard in Oxford UK, with venerable Sony ICF-2001D

Hi there, I thought I would share some Brazilian shortwave catches with you, obtained using my Sony ICF-2001D receiver and 200 metre experimental longwire. The first is Radio Bandeirantes, Sao Paolo on 9645.4 kHz. This is a station that I’ve only heard once or twice previously, but was received with excellent signal clarity and strength recently, using my deployable longwire antenna. I would rate this station as moderately difficult to receive with reasonable discernibility. The second is Radio Novo Tempo from Campo Grande, on 4894.9 kHz. This station I would rate as difficult to hear with discernible audio. The key is always signal-to-noise, thus moving yourself out of the ubiquitous blanket of QRM most modern environments endure will usually achieve this and of course coupled with sufficient space outdoors to erect a larger antenna will hopefully also improve signal strength. My final video on this post is Radio Nacional Brazilia on 6180 kHz. I would regard this station as quite easy to hear well; their effective TX power towards Europe is around 2 MW, however, outdoors, this station can literally boom in, with what might be perceived as local-AM signal strength. I hope you enjoy watching the videos and seeing/ hearing what’s possible with a modest set-up. As for the Sony ICF-2001D? Well the design is more than 30 years old, but in my opinion at least, still one of the very best portable shortwave receivers ever manufactured. Thanks and 73.

 

Direct link to Oxford Shortwave Log for reception video of Radio Bandeirantes

 

Direct link to Oxford Shortwave Log for reception video of Radio Novo Tempo

 

Direct link to Oxford Shortwave Log for reception video of Radio Nacional Brazilia

 

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.

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VOA Expands In South/Central America

voa logoFacing a group of presidents loudly critical of Washington, the U.S. government’s Voice of America broadcast is expanding its audience in Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuador and Nicaragua, VOA officials say.

VOA’s Spanish-language division also will step up its use of Radio/TV Martí’s production facilities in Miami because of budget pressures on both broadcasters, the officials added.

[…]”Our focus is on the Andean region because of the upheavals that are going on there,” said Spanish division director Alberto Mascaro. “Our second priority is Central America, especially Nicaragua and Honduras.”

Read the full report via The Miami Herald.

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