Guatemala: ″Young people have to break taboos″ | Latin America | DW | 14.06.2012
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Latin America

Guatemala: "Young people have to break taboos"

During his trip to Central America DW Director-General, Erik Bettermann, visited a DW Akademie radio project in Guatemala. He spoke with young journalists about the challenges and opportunities for a youth radio station.

"Why do we need a radio station for young listeners?" That was the focus of a discussion with Erik Bettermann and adolescents involved in the DW Akademie 'Radio Joven' project. The Director-General stressed that radio made education accessible to young Guatemalans.

But, he said, this had to be done in a style that appealed to young listeners. "Young people will only listen if you speak their language." That's the concept behind the 'Radio Joven' youth radio project: having adolescents produce programs for their peers.

Bettermann encouraged the young journalists to involve rural as well as urban youths in their programming and said the indigenous population was often overlooked. Young radio host Yesenia Pérez agreed. She likes wearing traditional, colorful Mayan woven skirts and embroidered blouses. "But," she said, "I get strange looks when I'm in the city. And we don't have the same opportunities that the white youths do."


Being under suspicion

But other prejudices also prevailed in the city, said the participants during the discussion moderated by DW Akademie trainer, Elena Ern. They were sometimes stigmatized and, as radio host César Tinay pointed out, often suspected of being members of the violent youth gangs known as "maras". The Director-General nodded, and said the radio project gave adolescents a chance to participate. Not being part of social processes, he said, was one reason why young people sometimes felt disoriented.

"How do you approach taboo topics?" radio producer Alexia Monterroso wanted to know. Bettermann encouraged the adolescents to tackle difficult issues, including coming to terms with the past. The Guatemalan civil war had lasted longer than 30 years but was still clouded in silence. He related his own experience in post-war Germany where those of his generation had demanded explanations from their parents. Coming to terms with the Nazi past thus became a priority.

Participants have now developed concepts on how to approach difficult and serious issues for a young audience. The Guatemalan project's overall goal is to establish a youth radio station and a multi-media platform.

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