Hip Hop in El Alto, Bolivia Bolivian youth have used hip-hop music for expression with political issues as well as the social issues the young people of Bolivia face. In Latin America, hip-hop helps tell the stories of the struggles. It is described in the article to be a “Hip-hop revolution” because of the criticism and examination of the social political, economic structure, and the inequalities. In El Alto, Bolivia is where youth are using hip-hop as a way to “spread education as a cultural action of freedom”. It is about making sense of their economic, social and political situations.
Abraham Bojorquez was a member of the group Ukamau y ke hip-hop group. He passed away on May 20, 2009 in El Alto, Bolivia in a traffic accident. The sudden death of Abraham Bojorquez was a huge sad moment for the hip-hop evolution in Bolivia. Bojorquez used hip-hop and his platform to voice all the unfair social issues, economic issues and political issues going on in the community. He used his creative way of expression to be an activist for his Indigenous people in Bolivia. In Bojorquez song “Medios Mentirosos”(Media Liars) he talks about the things that being force down their throats.
On days of elections they manipulate the people. He expresses in rap things the stuff the media wants the people to think, feel, follow and buy. He says it manipulation and the people behind it are trying to control them by hiding the truth. Because of the neoliberal policies such as the privatization of gas companies, railroads, mines, and national it left many thousands of people without work. That caused for a lot of poverty to exist and many had to migrate to other cities. The Bolivians and Indigenous went to the city of El Alto, which was not ready to have all of these new residents because it was not much of anything.
There would be more conflict because the economy was not any better. With the city growing and the conflicts boiling up between the migrants and the people of Indigenous decent it was making it impossible to co-exist together. I can see an analogy made by the authors Knopf Newman and Marcy Jane in the article, “Hip-hop Education and Palestine Solidary” because just like in the article the authors made comparisons of Palestine to the Nazi Germany Holocaust persecution of Jews and to the neglect and criminalization Of African Americans during the Katrina hurricane in New Orleans because people were being discriminated against and displaced.
The people From Palestine and from New Orleans both have been vigorously removed from their homes to not be able to return again. This was a similar for people that had to leave everything behind and had to go to El Alto because they were forced out with no choice to make it. Globalization launched the use of hip-hop for the Altenos. It was started as a form of expression and used to oppose the neoliberal policies. The Alteno Indigenous youth used hip-hop as empowerment because they found hip-hop to be a critical tool they can use in response to the neoliberal practices.
El Alto, is in the Altiplano urban center of La Paz, Bolivia where it is home to one million people. Of those people 90% of them are Indigenous, with 74% identifying as Aymara. The large amount of people living in El Alto caused poverty to grow quickly because of the fast growing population. El Alto was a fleeting resolution for the poor it became the city with the most migratory population. The city went through a rough economic time. People protested because they wanted the industrialization of gas in Bolivia because the country would make little money selling it raw to the USA through Chilean port.
They wanted to make their countries resources affordable and obtainable to them and have revenue for their social programs. The youth of Bolivia constructed new forms of cosmopolitanism that comes from the hybridization of hip-hop music. They made it their own by adding their languages of Quechua, Aymara, Spanish, and Indigenous cultural identity. Bolivian hip-hop was able to have the same impact of being the voice of oppression, racism and injustice for the youth just like around the world. El Alto, Bolivia became the place where the vouth used hip-hop music to voice all the inequalities they faced.
They questioned the social and political structures. The youth of El Alto would use hip-hop to educate and promote change where they live by using hip-hop music. Female rapper Nina Uma is from El Alto. She incorporates her native languages of Aymara (from her dad), Quechua (from her mother) and Spanish in her hip-hop music. She proudly represents the voice of the women in Bolivia. She has been rapping for seven years. Many things that she raps about are about life’s dilemmas, which she says her and many people around the world live with too.
Hop-hop music gave people a glimpse into the youths’ reactions to the first elected Indigenous president in the history of Bolivia. Evo Morales was elected president in 2006. He changed privatized industries to nationalized industries and applied anti-neoliberal policies. More policies concerning Indigenous people started to change and it was a good thing because it set pride to the people. Of course conflict events occurred. The Bolivian citizens questioned the government principles and this caused a massive march that went on for two month and because of the things going on the support of the Indigenous groups were lost.
This historic moment showed how much the Indigenous people have in Bolivian society. Just like in Ghana When these events started in 2003 in El Alto it gave the path for a hip-hop movement. It tried to break the traditional anti-Indigenous racist views by showing equality of all humans. The Alteno youth knew hip-hop to be what represents the struggle, being an oppressed minority, and being poor. They identified themselves with the struggles that African American communities experienced from the Bronx. Hip-hop is a revolution of freedom. Hip-Hop is not just an African American or North American cultural movement but it is a vehicle for global youth affiliations and a tool for reworking local identity all over the world” (Michell 2001, 1-2). As it has been studied in our course, it is known that hop-hop started in New York by poor, minority youth who were facing difficult situations such as racism, violence, drugs, and classism. It not only was a way for the youth to express themselves, but also it was their lives. Hiphop is an important tool because it was knowledge that you would get outside of school.
These could be life lessons that one cannot learn out of a textbook. Hip-hop around the world now can be heard shinning light on the current issues people are facing. They are putting the spot light on none working “system” that is taking them down. Hip-hop is adjusted to fit the style and music so it is relatable and fits their situations. The influences of African American hip-hop influenced El Alto hip-hoppers to mix it up with Indigenous elements. In El Alto, Bolivia the hip-hop movement got bigger after the neoliberalism. A group of young hip-hoppers started a group called Wayna Rap. They wanted to put forward change.
The group noticed the similarities of the struggles, and the feelings of injustice in their communities. The group discovered how much in common they have with people from other parts of the world. The group said, “The first time I heard rap I felt identified with that… I started to find more about it… and found out about all Martin Luther King’s struggle in the U. S. a lot of struggle from the Black Panthers that looked for revindication because there used to be a lot of racism… that reality happened here in Bolivia, all the discrimination, racism… ” (Tarifa, 2012. 401).
Bolivia is fighting racism and nequalities. The young Altenos struggle for freedom is due to the unjust order of how the people are treated. Hip-hop brings awareness to these issues. In the song, “Raza de Rascista” (Race of Racists) by Ukamau y Ke they rap about the politicians playing with the native people and not doing the people right. They talk right to you face to face and give you their hand but when you turn around they are quick to kick you down and they are asking for change. To stop the beating because of the color of their skin and being natives, it is all the mistreatment by the police and politicians people because they are different.
They are demanding for justice. They are sending the message that the oppressed is waking up and taking a stand to make change in neoliberalism. Everyone unite together. Casa Juvenil de las Culturas Wayna Tambo is a center where the Alteno youth could come for empowerment, a place where they can feel motivated and proud of their Indigenous culture and of themselves. The centers purpose is to inspire an appreciation of their selfidentity. It helps the youth to feel with purpose among the groups in Bolivia.