Message #333:
From: AzTeC SW Archaeology SIG
To:   "'Matthias Giessler'" 
Subject: Appropriate Technology Indigenous Culture
Date: Sun, 24 Aug 1997 10:43:22 -0700

[ See more about moth cocoons at 
-- Just think what the Internet might do to assist indigenoues 
culture... --  SASIG Ed. ]

Radio station helps tribes preserve cultures

They played, sitting inside a room of adobe, on a floor of swept dirt,
under white cowboy hats and a roof of sticks, split reeds and mud -- not
far from modern Mexico, with its own language, Wal-Mart Supercenters and
neon beer signs. But the men were in their own world, oblivious to the
rush of a culture that threatens to absorb theirs, oblivious even to the
microphones aimed at their instruments. On this day, they played to
preserve their heritage, their music, their culture, recording
centuries-old music for broadcast over a radio station run by and for
Sonora's indigenous tribes.

Radio station helps tribes preserve cultures 

By Graciela Sevilla 
The Arizona Republic
Aug. 24, 1997 

ETCHOHUAQUILA, Sonora -- Closing their eyes to play the music of their
ancestors, the three old Mayo Indian men plucked a worn, wooden harp and
coaxed lyrical music from dusty fiddles. 

They played, sitting inside a room of adobe, on a floor of swept dirt,
under white cowboy hats and a roof of sticks, split reeds and mud -- not
far from modern Mexico, with its own language, Wal-Mart Supercenters and
neon beer signs. 

But the men were in their own world, oblivious to the rush of a culture
that threatens to absorb theirs, oblivious even to the microphones aimed
at their instruments. On this day, they played to preserve their
heritage, their music, their culture, recording centuries-old music for
broadcast over a radio station run by and for Sonora's indigenous

"Our principal mission is to rescue, preserve and broadcast the
culture," said Tiburcia Yocupicio Rabago, a Mayo woman of 26, who's
running the recording sessions. Yocupicio is the hands-on station
manager for XE-ETCH, the "Voice of the Three Rivers." 

Sonora's three largest ethnic tribes -- the Mayo, Yaqui and Guarijio --
are being assimilated rapidly into the larger Mexican population, their
native languages, traditional music and customs swallowed. 

Mexico is a racially blended nation of mestizos created by the mixing of
Indian and Spanish cultures. The country's estimated 8.7 million
remaining Indians speak 59 languages and are scattered across the
country, living both in and near cities and, like the mountain-dwelling
Guarijios and Tarahumaras, in relative isolation from the greater
mestizo population. 

Cultures disappearing 

Many Mexican anthropologists believe they are witnessing the
disappearance of these distinct cultures as they lose their languages,
the force that separates a tribe from other Mexicans and unites a tribe
as a people. 

"If they lose their language, they lose their identity," said Abraham
Franco Osuna, a social anthropologist at the University of Sonora in
Hermosillo who studies the state's native peoples. 

A handful of tribes will die out with the current generation,
anthropologists say, as their numbers have dwindled to as few as a dozen
members for the Opata and fewer than 500 members in other tribes. 

But every day, on the airwaves that spread from Sonora's central coast
to the Sierra Madre foothills in the east and the borderlands of Sinaloa
state to the south, the Voice of the Three Rivers uses its 5,000 watts
to keep the ancient cultures alive. 

"There are communities where they still don't have electric energy, and
they use generators and batteries to watch television or listen to the
radio," said Bartolo Matuz Valencia, a Mayo who works as a community
correspondent for XE-ETCH. 

"The signal comes in perfectly." 

>From 6 a.m. to 2 p.m., Mayos, Yaquis and Guarijios can tune in to talk
shows and music just for them. Separate native language programs for
each group, hosted by native speakers, air in regular time slots. Avid
listeners know, if it's a talk show in Guarijio, it must be 11:30 a.m. 

"I always have it turned on full volume on the boom box so the sound
reaches utside," said Lourdes Aguilar, a Mayo woman who said she dances
with her grandchildren  when the traditional music plays. 

"People have shown a growing interest in the radio station since it
started. It provides . . . communication among the indigenous people
because it reaches all the corners of our region," Matuz said. 

Secundino Amarillas Valenzuela hosts a half-hour Mayo show called,
roughly, the "Voice of the Word." Aired on weekdays, the program covers
farming, legal matters, health, indigenous culture and traditional

His guest may be a tribal shaman or an agricultural expert discussing
the best ways to grow wheat. He may interview a civil-rights lawyer on
how to press a human-rights case. 

"I feel I'm doing something important because I'm in contact with the
indigenous people and I'm learning from them," he said. "But the things
I'm learning are not just                    staying with me, I am
spreading that information around." 

Host learned on the job 

Amarillas, 22, was in college, studying to become an industrial
engineer, when he quit last August to work at XE-ETCH. Like all of his
co-workers, he learned everything he knows about radio on the job. 

Raised in a wholly Mayo village in southern Sonora, Amarillas grew up in
a household where his mother spoke only Mayo and his father knew just a
little Spanish. Like most Sonoran Indians, Amarillas learned Spanish at
public school. 

This day, he accompanied Yocupicio on the recording expedition to the

"It's mostly the people in their 40s, 50s and older who are preserving
the culture," he said, sadly. 

The divide between young and old Mayos is visible among the 50 or so
men, women and children who've come to welcome the radio station
visitors and make a fiesta of the music. 

Sitting on board benches under a red tarp are mostly elderly musicians
and tribal leaders talking in Mayo and laughing. At their feet are
playing children speaking Spanish while youths in Reeboks and T-shirts
that say "New York City" stand apart exchanging teen talk. 

"Acculturation has been very sharp among the Yaquis and the Mayos," said
Franco, the university social anthropologist. "They have been greatly
influenced by the mestizo (Mexican-Spanish) culture through their
constant dealings with those they call the "Yoris' -- the White People."

Among the Sonoran Indians, the Yaquis are considered privileged by the
others, because the Yaquis received territories from the Mexican
government. Today, eight Yaqui villages surround the modern city of
Obregon in southern Sonora. 

The Mayo live mostly dispersed among the general population, sometimes
clustered in towns or neighborhoods in the valley between the port town
of Huatabampo and the city of Navojoa. Etchohuaquila is one such
mestizo-Mayo village and, coincidentally, the birthplace of baseball
player Fernando Valenzuela. 

Most isolated tribe 

Of the three groups, the Guarijios remain most isolated, leading harsh
lives without modern conveniences in the hardscrabble hills of the
Sierra Madre east of Alamos. Their territory is inaccessible except by
foot or beast. 

But as the mestizo population grows and spreads, the lifestyles of all
three groups have been encroached upon and need has driven many into the
Mexican cities for work. 

These forces have brought a decline in their numbers. Poor census counts
supply no accurate statistics on the native populations, and the
Guarijios were not even counted. 

Best estimates are offered by the Sonoran office of the National
Indigenous Institute, or INI: 37,000 Mayos, 11,000 Yaquis and about 800
to 1,000 families of Guarijios. 

It is the INI, Mexico's equivalent of the Bureau of Indian Affairs, that
built and funds the radio station, one of 17 such INI-run stations
across Mexico. 

tHe Voice of the Three Rivers began broadcasting in February 1995 from a
new one-story building in the town of Etchoajoa which sits in the heart
of Mayo country. 

Community service is key 

"Our programming content is aimed at community service and culture,"
said Raul Macias, Sonora's INI director. By INI decree, the only topics
not open to on-air discussion are religion, politics and business -
hence, no advertising. 

"One of our basic objectives is to . . . serve as a cultural bridge
between the rural and urban population," he said. 

Exchange and even solidarity among the three ethnic groups seems to have
grown through the sharing of music, traditions and talk over the

"I listen all day and I keep it on even when another language comes on,"
said Aureliano Valenzuela, a 31-year-old Mayo, who performed festival
dances during recording breaks. "I like hearing the other traditional
music and songs. I especially like Yaqui guitar music." 

But perhaps the most popular segments of the daily programming are the
two, half-hour announcement shows when personal notices and requests are
aired. Along with the news and weather reports, the announcements are
made in Spanish. 

"The message programs are among the most important . . . there are
hardly any telephones and it has helped to notify people that they have
a sick relative," said Matuz, the Mayo community correspondent for the
station. The radio connects those working or visiting in Obregon or
Guaymas with the ones back home in the village. 

Rita Amarillas, a 27-year-old Mayo and the only station employee with
prior radio experience, delivers the afternoon notices from 1:30 to 2
p.m. from a broadcasting booth outfitted with the latest sound

Messages a lifeline 

People stop by the station to write notices that Rita reads. There are
birthday greetings to a man working in Obregon from his wife and kids,
an open community invitation to a village festival or this type of
urgent call: "We advise Mrs. Maria Elena Galaviz who is listening in
Bayacorit, to please send a change of clothes for Rosario Osuna, who
won't be able to return home until tomorrow, due to her job," Amarillas

That S.O.S. goes out from the secretary at XE-ETCH who must work late,
missing the last available transportation to her village. 

Osuna is part of the station's skeleton staff of 10, including the
manager, who must juggle other duties beyond her designated job.
Sometimes, she has to leave the phones to host a show or go out to get

"We all have to do a little of everything to get the work done," said
station manager Yocupicio who, in addition to managing all the
administration tasks including the budget, has her own Saturday
interview program. 

On a recent Friday, Yocupicio abandoned the station early in the morning
and, along with Secundino Amarillas, set out for Etchohuaquila, at the
request of Mayo musicians who had sent word that they'd like to be

Armed with two studio microphones and a tape recorder, they arrived at
the village of hodgepodge adobe brick homes and unpaved streets set back
three miles from Sonora's main north-south highway. 

There is no running water and one public telephone in the 700-person
village. Electric poles run through the center and improvised wiring
puts lighting in many homes. 

Humble studio 

Jose Francisco Baypoli Matuz, president of the town cultural council,
had emptied a bedroom for use as a studio. A single bare light bulb hung
from the ceiling and extension cords running from the outside powered
microphones, tape recorder and a standing fan. 

Yocupicio sat at a wooden table at the back of the room, the musicians
in front of her against one cool, adobe wall. A half dozen groups and
soloists turned out and waited patiently for their turns at the

Several groups had turns, first the paradas or trios made up of two
fiddles and a harp who played lyrical "Pascola" dance pieces. Then, a
percussion quartet banged gourds and rasped sticks that looked like
notched rulers, striking a rhythm while chanting in harmony. 

Yocupicio led the sessions. With little preparation beyond a sound
check, she lowered her hand to signal the start, and men who work with
their hands for a living began making sacred music, leaving their legacy
on tape. 

"Now they have a medium of communication so they can express
themselves," Yocupicio said later. "The biggest impact of the radio
station has been allowing the people to hear their own messages and
their music in their own languages. It's theirs and they feel that it's


By Eduardo Velazquez/Special for The Republic
Tribal musicians accompany Aureliano Valenzuela, 31, as he performs a
festval dance. Around his calves, he wears dried butterfy cocoons.

By Eduardo Velazquez/Special for The Republic
Bartolo Matuz Valencia (right), a Mayo correspondent, and Secundino
Amarillas Valenzuela, a radio show host, interview Mayo elders in

By Eduardo Velazquez/Special for The Republic
Ten-year-old Arturo Guadalupe rests after performing a barefoot stomping
dance in the village of Etchohuaquila, Sonora. At 7, the boy began
learning traditional Pascola dances from his grandfather.