Reconstructing and Preserving Latin America’s Radio History

Friday, January 5, 2018: 1:50 PM
Calvert Room (Omni Shoreham)
Christine Ehrick, University of Louisville
It is hard to overstate the cultural and political importance of radio in Latin America, a region where the mass medium retained its dominance well into the so-called television age. Yet, only recently has more serious attention been paid to documenting that history and to preserving what remains of Latin American radio’s archival past. Historians of the medium’s early decades in the region typically contend with limited archival materials (written and especially audio), which demand methodological creativity and restrict the kinds of questions we might ideally ask. Recent radio preservation efforts, however, promise expanded possibilities for the study of broadcasting’s more recent history. Mexico and Brazil have been at the forefront of these efforts, and have established frameworks and templates that neighboring nations have sought to follow. Elsewhere, in countries like El Salvador and Chile, radio preservation has been intimately linked with broader initiatives to document and preserve the memory of military rule and civil war during the 1970s and 1980s. Following a brief overview of the state of the field of radio history in Latin America, this paper will discuss the accomplishments of, and challenges faced by, those seeking to preserve, archive, and disseminate archival radio in the region. This paper will include a report on the author’s participation in the Second International Congress on Digital Archives, to be held in Mexico City in November 2017, which will bring together many of the individuals and institutions at the forefront of radio preservation in Latin America.