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Latin American DXing

Edition 4, Updated April 1995


The topic of listening to Latin America has probably occupied more space in shortwave listening and DX bulletins over the years than any other topic. We hope this pamphlet is a little different. It has been written from a different viewpoint, the broadcaster's angle, based on conversations with managers of shortwave stations in the region. It is primarily designed for shortwave listeners who have gained some experience on the major international broadcasting bands (i.e. the 49 and 31 metre bands) and wish to look a little further. Adresses are given at the end of this pamphlet advising on where to look further for background reading. Further suggestions and comments from listeners are always welcome.

Though some texts lead the beginner SWL straight into the topic of listening to Latin America, the results can often be less than rewarding. In practice, most shortwave listeners start their listening on the international SW broadcast bands and pick up stations such as Radio Australia, Radio Sweden, Voice of America, British Broadcasting Corporation, and we hope, Radio Netherlands
All these, and many more, are international broadcasters. They make programmes in foreign languages other than their mother tongue, and the whole output is made with the overseas target area in mind. Most welcome reception reports, and many SWLs start to correspond with stations by first sending in a reception report. Over the years the emphasis on the reception report has changed (not necessarily diminished) and we have tried to define what many international broadcasters are looking for now in the pamphlet "WRITING USEFUL RECEPTION REPORTS". This is available free of charge, and even if you have been DXing or SWLing for some time, there may be some useful hints in the publication.
For the majority of shortwave listeners, the international broadcasting stations are enough. But, if you have a little patience, and quite a lot of time, it is possible to find another category of stations on the bands, i.e. the SW domestic broadcaster.

Domestic Broadcasters
Stations lying between the Tropic of Cancer and the Tropic of Capricorn are assigned three different "tropical" shortwave bands by the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) in Geneva. These are the 120 metre band which lies between 2300-2498 kHz, the 90 metre band between 3200-3400 kHz, and the 60 metre band 4750-5060 kHz (the frequency of 5000 kHz is not included since this is allocated to other users, including time signal stations). It is this latter frequency range that is probably the best to explore first for the newcomer.
Though there are some countries outside the tropics which use the tropical band of 60 metres (e.g. USSR) most of the signals you will hear are from tropical broadcasters using this frequency range for domestic broadcasting.

This applies to
stations in Latin America, though the reason for using the shortwave seems to be changing now in many of these countries. Because thunderstorms are very frequent in the tropics, medium wave reception can be very difficult when signal strength is low.
And so many stations started broadcasting their programmes on the 60 metre band to reduce this problem (interference is usually less severe). A wider audience can be covered with the same transmitter. This reason now seems to be changing as more and more stations, particularly in the larger cities, use medium wave with stronger transmitters and even FM (VHF) in some areas. Shortwave outlets have, therefore, been discontinued by some major stations, or merely retained as an extra outlet.
For others, the main reason for keeping the outlet open is to keep in touch with listeners as they move further afield during parts of the year because of their work. In rural areas, especially mountainous regions, 60 metre band broadcasting has retained its importance.

We do not intend to cover the art and practice of listening to the tropical bands in very great detail. To gain experience, tune this part of the dial as often as possible and also follow the loggings in most of the better DX clubs. The World Radio Television Handbook is also an excellent reference source, both in suggesting when, and on what frequency, you should look. It may help to identify DX catches.
However, since other regions outside the tropics use this frequency range for utility broadcasting, a first impression may be misleading. Many beginners are disappointed to find the band full of morse and telex signals on a particular evening. However, checking the same frequency range 24 hours later may reveal a number of strong broadcasting signals from Latin America.

Getting in Touch
Many listeners make the fundamental mistake of confusing the stations they hear on the international bands and those in Latin America. The latter are not generally interested in receiving correspondence from abroad, and if they receive many dozens of requests for "QSL" cards, the reports are usually simply thrown away. The SINPO code (see "Writing Useful Reception Reports") means nothing to most Latin American broadcasters, nor are reports in any other language apart from the country's mother tongue of any value.
International Reply Coupons are available at larger post offices in many parts of the world. In theory, someone in another country can exchange it for postage stamps to the value of SEAMAIL postage. In practice, especially in South America, IRCs are often not recognised for what they are. In some parts they may be invalid altogether. These factors mean that there is not much point sending the same standard reception report form you might use for large international broadcasters, to these 60 metre band stations. Instead, the approach should be in the form of a personal letter. Outright demands for a QSL card are seldom acknowledged and stations that receive many of these type of letters often stop QSLing altogether. Spanish reports can be used to the majority of stations, though Portugese must be used to write to Brazilians. Simply asking for "verificacao' (Portugese) or "verificacion" (Spanish) often brings a very vague reply which does not list the details contained in your report.

To help you, we have compiled a sample translation. This should not be regarded as the last word in Latin American reception report writing because, obviously, if you speak either of the two languages you will be able to inject your own personality into the letter. However, for those who do not have sufficient command of the grammar, the letter opposite is the next best thing. Each numbered sentence in the English text, corresponds with the same number in the Spanish and Portuguese text.

Dear Sir,
1. I am very interested in following events and the general way of life in Latin America.

You may know that radio and TV stations in this part of the world do not concentrate on news items from (Latin America or name of country) very often and only a limited range of records featuring folk music from your country can be obtained here.

For this reason, I listen to the tropical bands on my shortwave receiver, to follow developments directly and to enjoy the unique style of music.

4. I was recently fortunate to tune in to Radio..............and although I realise that your programmes are not intended for an international audience, I hope nevertheless that you may be interested in knowing that your programmes can be heard many thousands of kilometres away.

5. To give you an example I have made a note of the details of a recent broadcast.

6. On (date) at..... (name of country, then local time) I tuned into a programme from Radio.......broadcast on ...kHz, in the 60/90/120 metre tropical SW band.

7. At ...(time) you played a commercial for....

8. I noticed a news broadcast at .....

9. You announced the name of the station at.... with the following words "....."

10. I recognised a piece of music with the title of .... played at....

11. Your station closed down with the national anthem at.....

12. Your station signed on at .... local time.

13. There was a break in transmission between .....and .....

14. The signal quality was very good/good/fair and I was able to enjoy what was said in the programme. I also found the music you played to be enjoyable.

15. The signal quality as received here in (Hilversum) was naturally rather weak, but nevertheless I was able to follow some of what you said.

16. There was slight/heavy interference from Radio Station....broadcasting from..... on the frequency of ....kHz.

17. My receiver is a.....made in Japan/Germany/USA by the .....company.

18. The antenna is a (long wire) dipole/medium wave loop) and is....metres long, and ....metres above the ground.

19. Because your signal varies in strength during different times of the year, it is not always good. But I hope to find the time to listen again, mainly because you provide me with a unique source of music and information.

20. I should be very grateful if you could confirm in writing that I received Radio .... judging from the details I have enclosed.

21. I would also appreciate a station pennant if you have one please, and more details about the programmes you broadcast.

22. I am enclosing a few mint stamps from your country which I hope will help towards your postage costs.

23.I am enclosing $... which I hope will help towards your postage costs.

24. I am also enclosing a few postcards/stamps from this part of the world which may be of interest, to give you an idea of the countryside around here..

23. (Name of your town) lies about ....kms (north/south/east/west of (name of major city or capital).

24. Thank you for your help and I look forward to hearing from you soon.

25. Yours sincerely,

Follow up report

a) Repeat sentences 1-4 then.....

b) On the ....(date of dispatch of reception report) I sent you details of how well you are received at this location. However, since it is now some while ago since I sent the report I presume my letter has been lost in the post. Therefore I enclose the details of reception on that day.

c) Select further numbers as appropiate.

Thank you letter

Dear Sir,

Just a short note to say thank you for your letter (and pennant) which arrived safely a few days ago. I was delighted to receive confirmation of reception from your station and I hope that your signal will remain audible in this part of the world so I can follow events in your country.

Thanking you for your interest,

Best wishes,

Spanish Translation

Estimados Señores:

1. Ante todo quisiera saludarles e indicarles que soy una persona muy interesada por todos aquellos evento y por las costumbres de vida en general en América Latina.

2. Como comprederán Ustedes, en esta parte del mundo las estaciones de radio y television no dedican tanta atención a las noticias sobre (Lat.Am. or name of country) y además solamente podemos obtener discos de música Folclórica de su país por medio de su emisora.

3. Por ese motivo mediante mi receptor de onda corta escucho las bandas tropicales para seguir los diversos desarrollos en directo y para divertirme con el estilo de música, que es único.

4. Recientemente tuve la suerte de sintonizar a la Radio ...., pero como soy consciente de que sus programas no son destinados a una audiencia internacional, espero que de todas formas Ustedes se interesen en saber que sus programas son escuchados a mucho kilómetros de distancia de su país.

5. Seguidamente les indico algunos detalles de la reciente transmisión escuchada.

6. El día ....(date), a las .......(local time) horas, sintonicé su programación de Radio ....en los .....kHz en los 60/90/120 metros de la banda tropical de la onda corta.

7. A las ....(time) horas, Ustedes ofrecían un anuncio comercial para.....

8. Escuché una emisión de noticias a las ....(time) horas.

9. Ustedes anunciaron el nombre de la emisora a las...(time) horas con las siguientes palabras "......"

10. Recuerdo además un trozo de música titulada ".....", tocada a las (time) horas.

11. Su emisora cerró con el himno nacional a las ....(time).

12. Su emisora comenzó la emision a las.....(local time) hora local.

13. Noté una interrupción entre las....(time) hasta las....(time) horas.

14. La calidad de señal fue excelente/buena/regular. Estuvé muy atento a su estupenda programación y también de la música tocada por Ustedes.

15. La calidad de señal recibida aquí en...... (Hilversum) fue naturalmente bastante débil, pero no obstante pude compreder algo de lo que Ustedes dijeron.

16. Había una interferencía suave/muy fuerte de la emisora Radio ....., que transmitía desde las.... horas en la frecuencia de los ....kHz.

17. Mi receptor es de fabrición japonesa/alemana/estadounidense. Tiene un circuito de acuerdo con el "principio superheterodino" y tiene....(nr.) transistores.

18. La antena es (long wire) un dipolo/ una antena "loop" de onda media y tiene una longitud de ....metros y a una altura de ...metros.

19. Debido a que su señal varía de intesidad durante las diferentes estaciones del año, no siempre me es posible sintonizar sus programas.
Sin embargo, cuando las condiciones sean propicias, espero tener tiempo para volverles a escuchar nuevamente, ya que me intereso por las informaciones y por la música de su país, que dificilmente podemos encontrar aquí.

20. Les agradecería enormenente si Ustedes me constestaran en una carta en la cual se escribiera que yo he captado a Radio.... por medio de los detalles que les he incluído.

21. También les quedaría muy agradecido me remitieran un banderín de la emisora o algún recuerdo y detalles sobre los programas que Ustedes transmiten. Les incluyo una moneda/estampilla de su país para que les sirva de ayuda en el envio postal. Les incluyo $.... que espero les ayude para el envio postal.

22. También les incluyo algunas postales/estampillas de esta parte del mundo, para darles una idea del lugar de donde les escribo.

23. (Name of your town).... esta ubicada aproximadamente a unos .... kilometros al norte/sur/este/oeste de ....(name of major city or capital).

24. Agradeciéndoles de antemano su ayuda y esperando prontamente con gran interes su contestación.

25. Me despido muy atentamente,

Follow-up report

a) Repeat sentences 1-4 then......

b) El día ..... (date) les envíe a Ustedes detalles de como son escuchados sus programas en esta localidad. Ya ha pasado algún tiempo y aún no he recibido contestación alguna, por lo que imagino que la carta se habrá extraviado. Por eso les envio nuevamente los detalles de ese día.

c) Select further numbers as appropriate.

Thank you letter

Estimados Señores:

Por la presente me es muy grato saludarles y comunicarles que he recibido en buena forma, hace unos días, su atenta carta (y el banderín) que tan gentilmente me remitieron. Estoy muy contento de recibir por su parte la confirmación de recepción de su emisora y espero que su señal continue siendo audible para así poder seguir los acontecimientos en su país.

Agradeciéndoles nuevamente la atención dispensada, reciban los más cordiales saludos,

Muy atentamente,

Brazilian Portuguese version

Prezados senhores:

1. Interesso-me bastante pelo que ocorre e pelos costumes e a vida em geral na America Latina.

2. Como os senhores podem compreender, as estacoes de radio e televisao nesta parte do mundo nao dedicam muita atencao as noticias da (Lat. America or name of country). Alem disso sao poucos os discos de musica folclorica do seu pais que podemos obter aqui.

3. Porisso sintonizo as bandas tropicais no meu aparelho de ondas curtas para acompanhar diretamente a evolucao dos acontecimentos e para ouvir um estilo de musica que aprecio.

4. Recentemente tive a sorte de sintonizar a Radio ..... e muito embora eu compreenda que os seus programas nao sao dirigidos a um publico internacional, creio, no entanto, que os senhores certamente terao interesse em saber que as suas transmissoes podem ser ouvidas a milhares de quilometros de distancia.

5. Para lhes dar um exemplo, eu anotei os detalhes de uma transmissao recente.

6. No dia (date) as ..... (local time), (name of country or location) eu sintonizei um programa da Radio ..... transmitido em ..... kHz, na faixa de 60/90/120 metros da banda tropical em Ondas Curtas.

7. As ..... (time) os senhores rodaram um anuncio comercial para .....

8. Escutei um noticiaro as .....

9. O nome da estacao foi anunciado as ..... (time) com as sequintes palavras "..........."

10. Reconheci um trecho de uma musica com o titulo .... tocada as ..... (time).

11. Sua transmissao foi encerrada com o hino nacional as ..... (time).

12. Sua estacao iniciou a transmissao as ..... (local time) hora local.

13. Houve uma interrupcao na transmissao entre ..... e .....(time).

14. A qualidade do sinal era muito boa/boa/razoavel e gostei da programacao. Gostei tambem da musica tocada, bastante agradavel alias

15. A qualidade do sinal recebido aqui em (Hilversum) era naturalmente fraca, mesmo assim consequi acompanhar algo do programa.

16. Havia uma interferencia fraca/forte da Radio ..... transmitindo de ....na frequencia de ..... kHz.

17. Meu receptor e um ..... de fabricacao japonesa/alema/americana, marca .....Possui um circuito de acordo com o "principio heterodino" e tem ......(number of transistors in your radio) de transistores.

18. A antena e uma (long wire) dipolo/antena "loop" de onda media e tem ..... metros de extensao e uma altura de ......metros.

19. Como o sinal da sua transmissao varia de intensidade durante diversos periodos do ano, nem sempre e possivel sintoniza-lo o que e uma pena, principalmente porque asua emissora oferece excelente musica e boas informacoes.

20. Ficarei bastante grato se puderem confirmar por escrito que sintonizei a Radio ..... de acordo com os detalhes em anexo.

21. Gostaria de receber tambem uma flamula, se houver, e mairoes detalhes sobre a sua programacao.
Estou anexando alguns selos novos do seu pais como contribuicao para as despesas postais. Estou anexando $ para ajudar a cobrir as despesas com o porte.

22. Estou incluindo tambem alguns postais/selos desta parte do mundo que poderao lhes interessar e para lhes dar uma ideia do panorama por aqui ....

23. (Name of your town) fica localizada a uns ..... kms ao norte/sul/leste/oeste de (name of major city or capital).

24. Anticipadamente grato pela sua ajuda e aguardo sua resposta para breve.

25. Atenciosamente,

Follow-up report

a) Repeat sentences 1-4 then ....

b) No dia ..... (date of dispatch of reception report) enviel-lhes os detalhes sobre a qualidade de recepcao nesta parte do mundo. Como ja faz algum tempo e nao obtive resposta, acredito que a minha carta deve ter-se extraviada. Por isso incluo os detalhes da recepcao naquele dia.

c) Select further numbers as appropriate.

Thank you letter

Prezados senhores :
Desejo agradecer a sua carta (e flamula) que recebi ha alguns dias. Fiquei satisfeito ao receber a confirmacao do meu relatorio da sua estacao. Faco votos que o sinal da sua emissora continue audivel nesta parte do mundo para que eu possa continuar acompanhando os acontecimentos em seu pais.

Obrigado pelo seu interesse,


A good Spanish-English and/or Portugese-English dictionary is always an asset, but be careful about translating from English into either of those languages. The accents on top or below the letters are important. Don't forget them. Better to take an elementary course in the language if you are really interested in finding out more about the culture of Latin America.
There are some excellent reference books on the subject. Further suggestions are given in our "Booklist" which is kept up-to-date and a copy is available free of charge for the asking.

The following references are worth a separate mention:
"The South American Handbook"
Not a DX or SWL publication but an excellent reference source from anyone listening on shortwave. Annual publication enabling you to gain an insight into the part of the world you are listening to -recommended for both the SW and active DXer.
Compiled with the aid of numerous correspondents in the field, as opposed to a one-man roving reporter. Annual publication. Many UK bookshops stock it. In case of difficulty contact publishers ; Trade and Travel Publications, The Mendip Press, Parsonage Lane, Bath BA1 1EN, England.

Join a DX club, many of which carry a regular section on Latin American DXing. The Danish SW Clubs International in Greve Strand, Denmark publish an annual Tropical Bands Survey, which is excellent.
A Japanese club entitled "Radio Nuevo Mundo" also compile an excellent handbook to Latin American DXing.

The annual World Radio TV Handbook carries a current list of DX clubs, as does the European DX Council and the Association of North American Radio Clubs.

Our "BOOKLIST" provides all the current publication details, as they change quite often. The "Booklist" is updated more frequently than this pamphlet.

This edition compiled by Jonathan Marks. Any feedback, in the form of suggestions for further reading or items you think could be included to make the "LA Guide" more complete are always welcome. Please write to: Media Network, English Department, Radio Netherlands, P.O. Box 222, 1200 JG Hilversum The Netherlands. Publications wishing to reprint or translate this article should contact the above address for permission.

© Radio Nederland Wereldomroep April 1995. Published with permission.

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