Chilean women build thriving community through radio Global Voices
In a remote corner of Chile, Leticia San Martín Corrial turns on her radio and waits for someone to connect on the other end of the phone. After hearing the crackle of the radio, she is delighted to hear the voice of another radio amateur from Mexico, Turkey or Lithuania.ia.
“It’s XQ4NUA”, exclaims Leticia, introducing the personal code identifying him as an amateur radio operator, often referred to by the term amateur radio by aficionados. People who have received Ham Radio accreditation can call specific stations and have a conversation with the person on the other line. Many radio enthusiasts around the world can listen to these conversations. When the person on the other end speaks Spanish, greetings are exchanged and sometimes international friendships are formed. When they speak another language, they use user-friendly pre-established codes. They say “seventy-three”, which means Best regards, for example, then just “good luck”.
Radio amateurs are individuals who have made the effort to meet people in a safe environment, and they know that the other person has also connected with the same intention in mind. The patience required to bond just by listening to the other’s voice seems to add a little something to amateur radio communication. Operators engage in personal communications with other radio amateurs, both in their own country and around the world, using radio frequencies.
“It’s pure magic,” Leticia told me on Zoom. After 29 years as an amateur radio operator, she created her own radio club, the Yankee Lima Chile, the only one known to be exclusively made up of women.
“We attach great importance to mutual respect and support. We are like a family. If either of us is feeling down, we make sure to try to help or call to give a few words of encouragement, ”Leticia explains.
Unlike digital social networks, amateur radio is a closed circle: members must obtain a license from a government regulatory authority after passing an exam on radio standards and technology. Leticia was the first woman in Chile to achieve the highest rank in the amateur radio world, the “Advanced operator“level.
With the pandemic, the hobby gained ground. The fact that you work remotely from home like me, the fact that you can’t go out because you are in quarantine, it increased a lot more. [the use of radio], explains Leticia. “I think the pandemic, in a way, made it easier for us to be on the radio, to be able to participate. And there are also emergency networks.
In these conversations, politics, religion and business are forbidden, but countries, customs and professions are a fair game. Radio activities are also organized, such as competitions, certifications, activities where listeners can discover a particular place of interest in the country, a historical event or the anniversary of a Radio Club.
“When I make a call, I don’t know anyone, but I want to speak to any station, to any country. So you wait and all of a sudden you get a response from ecoalfa: “Echo, echo? A station in Spain responds. You take their callsign and give them yours. ‘My name is Leticia, I am located in the town of Racangua, 85 km south of Santiago de Chile and I am calling to exchange a few words’. And that’s where the conversation begins.
There are approximately 6,500 amateur radio operators in Chile and three million worldwide, most of them in the United States, Europe and Asia. Only about 15 percent of amateur operators are women. The peculiarity of the Leticia club is that it is specifically made up of women only, with members ranging from 14 years old to seniors. There are 22 women in the group that was formed in 2018.
“It’s the only one in Chile and some say even around the world. We all have the same goal, which is to talk on the radio, to do activities, to make ourselves known as women, and that gives a nice touch to the radio, because in general they are all men. But not here, there are more women, ”explains Leticia.
The call sign of his radio club, CE4YLC, has a meaning. “CE” stands for the country, “4” is the region of Rancagua and “YLC” is the name of the radio club (Yankee Lima Chile). “YL” comes from Young Lady, the old-fashioned nickname for women involved in amateur radio.
Amateur radio is also spreading to a younger audience.
“A lot of people think amateur radio is dead because of the Internet,” says Leticia. “But that’s not true, because nowadays there are also children who join us.” Leticia has a 14 year old daughter who has just joined her club. She likes “to listen to the noise of the radio, to have difficulty making contact, then to speak to someone from a distance”, adds Leticia.
“The radio will always be there and will always be active. I mean, the internet can be shut down and that’s it. He is low. You must wait. With radio, on the other hand, no no, you can broadcast for many hours without electricity, and it’s even more magical. You just listen, but you can’t see the person.
Amateur radio helps with natural disasters and power outages – the CE4YLC club is recognized in Chile by the national emergency agency. “We are the first to communicate in the event of a power cut, we are always active and present”, specifies Leticia. They also helped locate survivors of the earthquake that rocked Chile in 2010.
“Amateur radio enriches my soul and my spirit. It keeps you alive, it motivates you, to have so many friends all over the world, to make friendships that never end. It’s wonderful, ”Leticia shares.
On April 18, International Amateur Radio Day was celebrated. Friends of Yankee Lima Chile sent greetings from all over the world: