Percussion Class in San Agustín

by Teresa García Alcaraz

San Agustín Radio, also known as Radio Perola, is a community station where people meet, listen, cry, learn, share jokes and hold discussions. It is a second home for many residents of San Agustín, one of the oldest neighborhoods in Caracas, Venezuela.

Chipi, one of the cofounders of Radio Perola in San Agustín. Source: Teresa García Alcaraz

Radio Perola was founded 12 years ago by Milagros "La Negra" and Jimmy "Chipi" Fariñas in a small building on a boulevard in San Agustín. The founders do not pay rent, so they can be considered squatters. Their dream is the good of their community.

The boulevard where Radio Perola is located. Source: Fernando Campos

The station occupies approximately 20 square meters, with only a plastic table, a few other pieces of donated furniture, a television, a microphone, a receiver and a few speakers. Next to the building there is a square bordered by a school and a Catholic church. Neighbors sit outside and listen to Radio Perola through speakers placed along the boulevard — the only place where the station has coverage.

Radio Perola's broadcasting equipment. Source: Teresa García Alcaraz

Chipi recently invited percussionist Gerardo Rosales to give a public workshop and concert aimed at bringing people together to resist violence in the community. The idea was well received, and people of all ages gathered in the boulevard on the day of the event.

A workshop with Gerardo Rosales on the boulevard. Source: Fernando Campos

Rosales taught children how to play songs by Tito Puente and Manny Oquendo, two legends of Salsa and Latin Jazz. He told them about his childhood dream of becoming a musician, which inspired him to take lessons in conga, timbales and bongos. "If you have a dream, go for it!" he proclaimed. "You have to study hard. If you do, your dreams can come true." He mentioned a local school led by Pedrito García, son of a legendary Cuban conga player who lived in San Agustín.

Initiatives like this deserve recognition. People like La Negra and Chipi — who put their time and effort into community radio without receiving any income — need to be rewarded. Their dream came true, at least for a day, as violence on the boulevard gave way to live music.

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  1. I would like to find out more about the station's history, the technology they use to broadcast on the boulevard, and their interactions with the surrounding community (for example, do they invite guest DJs, what kinds of programs do they run, what is their relationship with the local authorities...?). Thank you for sharing such a fascinating initiative. I hope you will write more about it or maybe interview the founders some day.

  2. great story. i'd also like more details, but appreciate the way you're reporting on things that don't often show up in the international press.

  3. Thanks for your comments.

    I met La Negra and Chipi a few years ago when I was doing my research in Caracas. After spending some time with them, I drew my own conclusions about the radio and their work.
    They define themselves as apolitical people. They don’t believe in politics and they don’t want to receive any help from local authorities, political institutions and so on.
    The radio station is more like a social house, where everybody pops- in and shares ideas, thoughts and laughs.
    They run sport programmes (mainly baseball and football) as well as music programmes. They invite friends and people from San Agustín and surroundings to play songs and debate about music and composers. People from the community are invited to participate actively.

    People use to put chairs on the square and listen to the radio through the speakers located along the street. It is not a professional radio; it is more like a daily report of the community.

    I hope you enjoy reading the article.

  4. El trobo molt bo, endavant amb aquestes idees brillants i aquestes bones obres d'arreu.


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