Mexican indigenous radio stations help prevent COVID-19 in vulnerable communities

Indigenous radio stations have a fundamental role in the mitigation of the COVID-19 pandemic

Mexican indigenous radio stations help prevent COVID-19 in vulnerable communities
At least 22 radio stations are translating COVID-19-related contents - Photo: File photo/EL UNIVERSAL
English 06/05/2020 16:20 Mexico City Alejandra Canchola & Karla Rodríguez Actualizada 19:15

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Nearly 110 indigenous radio stations have become the main tool to translate 2,200 messages into over 60 languages so that communities are informed about COVID-19 and prevent its spread during the health emergency, according to IMSS-Bienestar.

According to the federal government, the objective is to broadcast official messages through these radio stations to mitigate the coronavirus pandemic in vulnerable communities.

In an interview with EL UNIVERSAL, Jesús Astorga, deputy director of the System of Cultural Indigenous Radio Stations of the National Institute for Indigenous People (INPI), asserted that the radio is a fundamental way for the government to promote information about the pandemic in areas where there is no TV or internet available.

According to Astorga, the indigenous radio broadcasters of at least 22 INPI stations, have become the most important personnel to translate this information and share it in these communities.

“Their role is fundamental. They are public figures in their regions because of the years they have spoken in microphones, because they are neighbors, because they speak these languages and because in some communities, they are appointed by traditional councils to perform this labor. They are highly relevant; the community believes what they say,” he explained.

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Astorga added that, in order to follow the measures implemented for Phase 3 of the COVID-19 contingency plan, the staff at indigenous radio stations take turns to work and avoids creating panic in their communities.

In this vein, Bertha Dimas, coordinator of Indigenous Cultural Heritage, Research, and Education of the INPI, said that, in addition to translating, radio broadcasters have helped supporting communities by sending messages to families so that they stay home as suggested by the government.

She added that there are communities that still believe the new coronavirus will not reach them since they are very isolated. Some of them have already registered cases and others decided to completely shut down the entrance to their land.

“The only thing we have recommended is for them to allow the entrance of people from the Health sector and those who bring food. This has been achieved mainly through the work of community radio stations,” she said.

In this regard, Astorga explained that radio broadcasters are also working in adapting some indigenous traditions such as the El Mitoteque dance – which is performed by several communities to bring peace – so as to create analogies and comply with the health measures recommended by the government.

“They made an analogy with this traditional ceremony in which they have to go through lent and that they associate with being clean and blessed [we] related it to physical distancing,” he said.

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Cultural indigenous radio stations also designed, in coordination with the Public Education Ministry (SEP) and the National Institute for Adult Education (INEA), a pilot program to carry on with the basic education school year in indigenous communities.

The radio program called “Learn At Home” will last for half an hour and it will start being broadcast this week in some communities. It will have a magazine format and it will include information capsules and interviews about coronavirus and about how students can continue working on their subjects.

“We don’t have the resources to follow up education, [so] radio stations are our allies.   They will share information about maths, language, and science in the languages from these regions,” explained Dimas.

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