By Hannah Stack
For Indigenous communities in Guatemala, unity is partially a problem of communication.
Although an estimated 60 percent of the country’s population has an indigenous background, the
rural locale and generally high poverty level of the native communities, along with the
substantial distance between one community and another, make communication between the
greater Indigenous population challenging. As effective communication is key to spreading issue
awareness and developing cultural unity, overcoming this challenge is crucial for resisting
outside marginalization of the region.
For Cultural Survival, an Indigenous advocacy group working in Guatemala, the importance of
maximizing Indigenous communication throughout the country has not been overlooked. While
the organization offers several other services to benefit Indigenous Peoples including support for
grassroots movements and the publication of a quarterly magazine, its Indigenous Rights Radio
program has become vital in its pursuit of greater unity. Through this program, Cultural Survival
looks to empower native communities by informing their members of their fundamental rights.
Stories and subject matter are gathered from communities around the world and broadcasted to
rural Indigenous populations in their native languages. While radio communication may seem
outdated to the modern world, it is a valuable tool in these regions due to its overall affordability
and its capacity to reach remote areas.
With the help of a Keepers of the Earth Fund grant from First Peoples Worldwide, the
organization has been able to air a radio series on the United Nations-declared right to Free,
Prior, and Informed Consent (FPIC). This right, which ensures Indigenous participation in
matters concerning their well-being, rights, and traditional land, requires organizations and
governments whose endeavors affect native lands and lifestyles to gain the willing consent of the
communities they disturb. Through its radio broadcasts about FPIC, Cultural Survival is
informing its Guatemalan Indigenous listeners of the rights they possess and of outside actions,
such as land concessions, that could violate these rights.
While Cultural Survival’s radio program has been hindered by legal loopholes that allow
community stations to be forcibly terminated, its broadcasts continue to be vital to many
Guatemalan Indigenous communities. By equipping listeners with a greater knowledge of their
rights, Cultural Survival is enabling Indigenous Peoples to better defend their cultures and
“Cultural Survival.” Cultural Survival.
“Indigenous Peoples in Guatemala.” International Work Group for Indigenous Affairs.
“Indigenous Rights Radio.” Indigenous Rights Radio.