“1881… 1893…” Mayra and I were looking for the offices of Radio Gráfica on a rainy Buenos Aires morning. “Here it is! 1941!” I could see huge red and blue letters, painted in the famous ‘fileteado’ style, saying “RADIO GRÁFICA” above the heavy red door. An unknown person buzzed us in as we tried to open it. While climbing up the stairs to the first floor, I felt as if I was in a horror movie. The building was quiet and deserted. However, the view changed on arrival to the second floor. The place was filled with voices coming from a small room with tons of bumper stickers covering the door. We could see Lucas Molinari, our interviewee, behind the glass wall in front of which a big red sign saying “EN EL AIRE” was emitting a bright red light. Figuring out that he was busy, we decided to explore radio’s place of operation. Posters and bright colors depicting different figures were covering the walls and two big tables sat in the middle of the vast room. Although the place was kind of empty, just as the first floor, it was filled with a certain warm atmosphere that only synchronized and cooperative work can bring.
Once done with his part of the radio reporting, Lucas helped us bring everything into perspective. He explained that Radio Gráfica was a result of very close teamwork. In 2003, after the closure of the Gráfica Patricios cooperative, a graphic business, the company’s workers decided to resist the will of the owners to empty the place. After nine months of resistance, they took the unoccupied areas of the abandoned cooperative into their own hands and first created a public school and a public orthodontic center. Having a free studio, they later decided to establish a church radio, due to one of the worker’s connections with the local church. However, in March of 2005 they launched Radio Gráfica, making the dreams of the residents of the south barrios of Buenos Aires come true as they finally received their first medium of communication.
Lucas proudly confirms that has been part of the radio since the very beginning when it started as an amateur organization. Today, however, Radio Gráfica is a professional station, broadcasting from the 89.3 FM. Forty- five programs that have been developed over the past seven years operate under the mission of not only providing their neighbors with local, national, and international news, but also analyzing and reflecting on it. The hard workers at Radio Gráfica believe that being informed is a human right and therefore make sure to keep their programs diverse, looking at all aspects of human life, such as sport, music, culture, humor, and so on. They also try to keep the programs unique, usually spicing them with local and national exclusive news, not mentioned in other media.
In order to keep up with the good work, Radio Gráfica receives help from the people interested in their project and the barrios of the south, where the radio operates, mostly in the form of interesting interviews. Volunteers from all around the world, coming to the radio through Voluntario Global, also help to keep the production of Radio Gráfica noteworthy by bringing pieces of their countries and their own international experiences to the programs. Furthermore, there is the public, which relates to the programs and enlivens them with their answers and opinions.
Much more help, however, is going to be needed in order to start influencing the change, says Lucas. The radio is lacking financial resources and therefore their present influence is low. Since the storm recently destroyed their tower, they are currently collectively working on obtaining a new one, which will be able to reach a larger amount of people (today, Radio Gráfica only extends in three kilometers radius from the station). Hopefully, this will also help the station to expand internally, thus being able to employ additional workers – the most important part of Radio Gráfica.
Lucas strongly believes that without the workers’ cooperation, knowledge, and information, the radio would not exist and therefore, the recruitment of young people, usually coming from the south barrios themselves, is constant. Even though very few hold the title of ‘journalist’ that does not matter, since they understand their listeners and learn everyday while working. Lucas explains that they all work in synchronization with the radio’s very important values, which are solidarity, sharing, and collective practice. With these principles everything is possible.
Another key value is also continuous improvement of the news. With regards to this, cooperation with the international volunteers is important. When asked about the experience working with the volunteers from Voluntario Global, Lucas enthusiastically tells us that, so far, the experience has been very good. It is not only the knowledge that they bring to the radio, but also the experience that they take back home with them. They live Radio Gráfica and therefore understand it and are able to share it with the peers in their countries. He tells us that one of the Voluntario Global’s alumni, Julia from Italy, is currently working in Denmark, editing a documentary about Radio Gráfica. Things like that help the radio create an international network, which is crucial for their vision of expanding internationally as well as nationally.
So far, they are on a good way to succeed but lots of determination and hard work is still needed. However, as they believe that “pueblo con poco hace mucho,” I have no doubt that they will make it. As for now you can listen to their engaging programs online at http://www.radiografica.org.ar and follow them on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/#!/pages/Radio-Grafica-FM-893/86983114627.