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At a glance: Venezuela, The Bolivarian Republic of

Youth radio keeps indigenous culture alive in Venezuela

© UNICEF Venezuela/2007/Markisz
Young radio producers led by Yhoen, 17 (foreground), broadcast their cultural programme ‘Ouliwou’ at Radio Fe y Alegria in the village of Guajira, Venezuela.

By Kun Li

NEW YORK, USA, 15 January 2007 – It’s a busy day in the Guajira village market run by the Wayuu people, one of the largest indigenous groups in Venezuela. Roadside eateries are filled with villagers who, after shopping in the sun for hours, long for cold drinks and a good meal.

On hot days, Blanca, 11, and her friends like nothing more than to relax in the shade, listening to their favourite radio show.

“I like very much the programme from Radio Fe y Alegria FM 101,” she says. “I always listen to them, in the morning, in the afternoon, every day.”

Among all the shows, ‘Ouliwou’, which means ‘Wayuu heritage’, has attracted special attention from Blanca and her friends. “I like the programme, especially when they talk about our Wayuu culture – the stories, the music and the drum,” she explains.

© UNICEF Venezuela/2007/Markisz
Young people from the Wayuu indigenous group in Venezuela meet within a network where they can make new friends and discuss issues of common concern.

The power of radio

The radio show that captivates Blanca and her friends is produced by a group of young people. Faced with social and economic exclusion, like many other indigenous groups, the Wayuu youths behind Radio Fe y Alegria are determined not to lose their cultural identity.

Using the power of radio, they are getting their messages across.

“In our programme, we encourage people not to leave our culture behind,” says ‘Ouliwou’ producer Yhoen, 17.

“Our language and our customary mode of dress are disappearing little by little,” he adds. “In ‘Ouliwou’, we remind them not to forget about our customs, our traditional dress, our language, our music and everything that has to do with our cultural heritage.”

Programmes for a new generation

The radio show is supported by PROANDES – the Andean Programme of Basic Services against Poverty, a joint project of UNICEF and Venezuela’s Ministry of Education. Broadcasting in both Spanish and Wayuunaiki, the native Wayuu language, ‘Ouliwou’ and similar shows are educating a new generation.

Outside the radio station, Yhoen and his friends have formed a cultural network where Wayuu youth can meet, make new friends and discuss issues concerning their indigenous community.

During holidays, the young people perform traditional dances for neighbourhood children and their parents – another way of paying respect to the Wayuu way of life.

© UNICEF Venezuela/2007/Markisz
Yhoen and his friends perform traditional dance for neighbourhood children and their parents.

‘Carrying on our culture’

Radio Fe y Alegria’s cultural programming has received wide support from the Wayuu community in Guajira. Many children and elders from the village contribute regularly to the creative process behind the shows. They know that keeping the culture alive is a task that involves everyone.

After visiting the station a few times, Blanca now aspires to become a radio producer herself. “I’d like to talk on radio some day,” she says.

For his part, Yhoen wants to help ensure that the work of preserving Wayuu culture continues for generations to come.

“When I become an adult and have children,” he says, “I’m going to teach them to work in the radio programmes like the one that I’m currently working on. That way we will never stop working and continue carrying on our culture.”




August 2006:
UNICEF correspondent Kun Li reports on Wayuu youths using radio to promote their indigenous culture in Venezuela.
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