Radio Messages to a Captive Audience

Transistor Radio - Photo: Road Side Pictures

Transistor Radio. (Photo: Road Side Pictures/flickr)

I produced my first long radio piece last year. My subject was my father, Jaime Correal, who had been kidnapped in Colombia ten years before.  I produced this piece with Jay Allison for and created a new, shorter version with Ira Glass that aired this weekend on This American Life. Here’s the story: In 1999, my father was kidnapped by FARC guerrillas and held in the jungle for nearly nine months. At the time, kidnapping was extremely common in Colombia. It was not common, however, for hostages to be rescued or released.

My dad was rescued by the Colombian military eight months after he disappeared, because one of his guards – a 17-year-old girl – turned herself in and revealed where he was. Thousands of people who were kidnapped then were not so lucky. They’re still missing, and their loved-ones continue to send them messages over the radio every week on a show called Voices of Kidnapping, or Las Voces del Secuestro, on Caracol Radio, which has broadcast messages to kidnapped victims every Saturday night for 15 years, as several other stations in Colombia have followed suit.

I visited the Caracol studio when I went back to Colombia last year, and I met more than a dozen families who rely on the radio to keep up morale, almost as much their loved ones in the jungle do. I also interviewed my father about his kidnapping, and the little black radio that helped him fight off the gloom during six long months of solitude.

The story begins about 8 minutes into the hour long program. Listen here.

Annie Correal is a reporter for El Diario.

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AboutAnnie Correal
Annie Correal is a reporter based in New York, where she has covered crime, immigration and breaking news for The New York Times and El Diario, and contributed radio pieces to WNYC, NPR and This American Life. She is working on a new, Spanish language storytelling podcast, Radio Ambulante ( scheduled to launch in 2012. Annie was born in Bogota and raised between California and Colombia.