The Relationship between Grassroots Community Radio and Maya in Guatemala & Chiapas, Mexico

Hello! My name is Polly.  I’m very excited to have received an Honors Fellowship and to share my history honors thesis research with you over the next year!

After reflecting on potential topics with multiple professors, I was encouraged to apply what I learned as an intern this past summer: community radio is critical to Indigenous Peoples around the world. However, there has been little research done on the history of this instrument in Indigenous communities and its relationship to identity formation. Through my thesis, I hope to establish the important role radio has had in Maya communities over the past half-century, in order to illustrate the necessity of support for Indigenous community radio.

My project centers on the relationship between grassroots community radio and modern assertions of indigeneity in Highlands Guatemala and Chiapas, Mexico. It will focus on how issues facing local groups have shaped the causes and the identity they mobilize around, and how these have been presented through radio broadcasts about cultural identity, rights, and according action. Moreover, it will consider how radio, in spreading these cultural messages, can be a tool of social, economic, and political empowerment. Tracing how conceptions of indigeneity and relationships with Maya identity have changed within populations due to circumstances of time and space, the thesis will explore the parallel evolution of broadcasts and social movements. In doing so, it will emphasize both divergences and similarities between the Indigenous Peoples of highland Guatemala and Chiapas, whose shared geography and origin stories have been split by the national boundary.

In order to complete this research, I will travel to Guatemala and Mexico for the summer, spending a month in each country. While there, I will volunteer at local radio stations and interview current and former radio broadcasters, as well as radio listeners.

I can’t wait to begin my on-the-ground research in less than two months, and I hope you enjoy following the evolution of my project over the next year!