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"Wavescan" is a weekly program for long distance radio hobbyists produced by Dr. Adrian M. Peterson, Coordinator of International Relations for Adventist World Radio. AWR carries the program over many of its stations (including shortwave). Adrian Peterson is a highly regarded DXer and radio historian, and often includes features on radio history in his program. We are reproducing those features below, with Dr. Peterson's permission and assistance.

Wavescan 390, June 16, 2002

The Story of AWR in Latin America

The radio scene in Latin America has always been viewed by international radio monitors, particularly those who live in North America, as being "very exotic." Stations come and go. Quite often they will appear on the radio dial without prior announcement, and quite often they will simply disappear without prior announcement.

On some occasions, silent shortwave stations in Latin America will suddenly make an unannounced comeback, usually to save their license. Then too, a silent shortwave station may even be unexpectedly revived, under different ownership and under a different identification slogan.

All of these changes and developments just add to the variety and fascination of tuning the tropical shortwave bands for these exotic Latin American stations. And we can also remember that a large number of these exotic stations have been logged and QSLed over the years at great distances, in North America, Europe, and the South Pacific.

In this edition of Wavescan, we present another episode in the continuing story of Adventist World Radio. It is the story of two shortwave stations located in Latin America, one in Guatemala and the other in Costa Rica, and their story is just as exotic and as colorful as the story of any other in that part of the world.

This is the story of Union Radio, TGMU, AWR in Guatemala, and TIAWR, Radio Lira, in Costa Rica. So stay with us for this unfolding saga.

Actually, the story begins way back in the early days of shortwave broadcasting. It was in the year 1924 just before Christmas that Amando Cespedes Marin in Heredia, Costa Rica constructed two mediumwave transmitters. When he went on the air, his neighbors thought that they were listening to a high powered station in the United States. Four years later, he constructed a shortwave transmitter at just 7.5 watts and this was heard widely in the Americas and Europe, and even in distant Australia.

Senor Amando became quite famous for his broadcast activities and he established some of the earliest radio stations in his country, one of which was subsequently named as Radio Lira. This station, with the callsign TIACA, was bought in 1983 by the Seventh-day Adventist church in Costa Rica, where it became TIASD, and then more recently, TIAWR.

Radio Lira was transferred at first to the Adventist school at Hatillo in Costa Rica where it went on the air with local programming on mediumwave. The station was subsequently transferred again, this time to the Adventist university at Alajuela where it was re-launched on FM and shortwave.

Next we look at another early radio station in Costa Rica, and this was Radio Atenea TIRS which was launched half a century ago. This station was bought by an institution of the American government, also in the year 1983, and re-launched as the now infamous Radio Impacto.

Radio Impacto was on the air mediumwave and shortwave from three widely separated locations. After this station had fulfilled its intended purpose, it was closed and sold at the end of its seven year history.

The equipment at the northernmost location was sold to a businessman who re-launched the station on mediumwave only as Radio Cordillera. The property at Cahuita on the Atlantic coast, and a bevy of their transmitters and antennas, was bought by Adventist World Radio and this location became the main shortwave base for Radio Lira Internacional.

And now we look at another historic sequence which begins over in neighboring Guatemala back half a century ago. A low powered mediumwave station with a 200 watt transmitter took to the air in 1957 as TGMU. Their early identification slogan was Radio Buena Musica, though this was changed some thirty years later to Union Radio.

This mediumwave station in Guatemala City, TGMU, was bought by the Adventist church where it was re-launched with three outlets in parallel, AM, FM, and shortwave. Union Radio joined the AWR network in 1981.

At that time, the head office for Adventist World Radio in Latin America was established in the administrative office of the Seventh-day Adventist church in Guatemala City. However, four years later the AWR office was transferred from Guatemala City in Guatemala to the Seventh-day Adventist University in Alajuela, Costa Rica.

As the methods of electronic delivery in Latin America changed, so did the endeavors of Adventist World Radio. A few years ago, the well known and long established Trans World Radio on the island of Bonaire closed their shortwave transmitters and concentrated on the delivery of a satellite signal to local radio stations throughout Latin America.

Unintentionally following in these same footsteps, Adventist World Radio looked in the same direction and the shortwave facility at Cahuita was sold towards the end of the year 1998. The station was bought by Wescott, and soon afterwards the transmitters were heard by international radio monitors with the programming of Dr. Gene Scott.

AWR Pan America is functioning these days from the splendid suite of studios installed into a building known as Bella Vista. This facility is ideally located on top of a hill with a remarkable view overlooking the surrounding valleys and cities.

This studio facility at Bella Vista is the co-ordinating point for AWR Pan America, collecting programming from Adventist radio stations and studios throughout Latin America, and formatting them into a combined 24 hour schedule for delivery by satellite. It is estimated that anywhere up to 100 local FM and mediumwave stations are taking this satellite relay, either part time or full time.