Radio Colifata, a Radio Show Run by Psychiatric Patients

Amelia Rachel Hokule’a Borofsky writes about her visit to Radio Colifata, a radio show run by psychiatric patients in Buenos Aires. She mentions falling down a rabbit hole:

I get out of the taxi and see the paint-peeling walls of a hospital with black graffiti that reads “Don’t shut us down.” Founded in 1863 and spread out on 49 acres, the hospital stands as a testament to an older model of institutionalized psychiatric treatment. In the United States, in part due to socio-political changes and the availability of psychiatric medications, most long-term hospitals closed in the 1970s, the patients moved into underfunded community healthcare networks. El Borda reflects the old institutional model, but Buenos Aires style. Psychoanalysis, magical realism, circus, tango, and pirate radio all thrive here.

A security guard smiles and says, “Are you here for Radio Colifata?” I nod and look for an ID. He shakes his head and, without unlocking any doors, points me to the courtyard. Big leafy shade trees cover a tiny yellow building with a mosaic of colorful people. Above their heads reads: “Radio Colifata,” which means “crazy lady” in the lunfardo prison slang developed in the late 19th century so guards would not understand the prisoners. The motto of Radio Colifata, the founder Dr. Alfredo Olivera explains, is “To create bridges where there are walls.”

And an interesting note that this venture isn’t unique, but would be so in the United States:

Inspired by Radio Colifata, I looked again into the possibility of a radio station broadcasting from an inpatient psychiatric facility. I found around fifty such stations based on the Radio Colifata model in Latin America and Europe, including Nikosia in Barcelona, Spain, Les Z’entonnoirs in Roubaix, France, and Radio Rete in Italy. I asked a few directors of facilities here in the United States, but they all reiterated that funding, confidentiality, and legality would make it virtually impossible.



(hat tip: Kottke)

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