Brayan and Darío are using hip hop to preserve their native language. Though spoken by nearly 80,000 indigenous Colombians and Panamanians, Emberá is an endangered language, which means that in just a few generations, Emberá, along with their way of life, may cease to exist. By combining hip hop with their native language, the cousins hope, as Dario explains, “… to encourage children to learn it. We don’t want children to forget about our culture, our language.”
They’ve toured through South America to promote awareness of the struggles facing their culture. Using hip hop to spread the cousin’s message makes total sense.
Arguably the greatest strength of hip hop is its ability to give voice to those wanting to call out the injustices in society. In the late ’70s and ’80s, hip hop turned a mirror onto relevant issues like poverty, crime, and the flawed justice system. The cousins are no exception in how they handle their subject matter. Both Dario and Brayan draw lyrical inspiration from the ideals that are important to their culture as well as violence that currently surrounds their community — the indigenous people have found themselves caught between the conflicts of the FARC militia and the Colombian military. Brayan illustrates this point, by saying, “We are very conscious when it comes to writing our lyrics. We sing about the environment, Mother Earth, no to violence and discrimination.”
Their biggest hit, “Condor Pasa,” currently has over 12K views on YouTube.
The love of their culture is reflected in many aspects of their videos. Their lyrics, which are completely in Emberá, touch on subjects important to their people. They feature backgrounds and environments that are distinctly of their region. They wear elements of traditional attire. And they perform rituals and dances that are heavily influenced by their heritage. Thanks to the efforts of Dario and Brayan, they are preserving the language as well as the culture of the Emberá people.
President Iván Duque traveled to Colombia’s southwest in the wake of what he called the “assassination” of five indigenous leaders. According to the Associated Press, leaders of the Tacueyo reservation were killed this week when they were ambushed by gunmen that belong to a faction of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (also known as FARC).
The leaders’ armored SUV was attacked by a small group of defectors with hand grenades and guns who do not support the now-defunct FARC’s peace treaty with the government. The gunmen continued to shoot even as ambulances arrived to help the wounded. Duque condemned the act of violence that injured six and killed five, including Cristina Bautista, the spiritual leader of the semi-autonomous reservation and the top authority.
The Nasa indigenous guard try to thwart the assassination.
The Nasa indigenous group resides in the Cauca province of southwest Colombia. When the Nasa indigenous guard attempted to stop a car for a routine check, a group of dissidents including a leader demanded to pass through. After a standoff, the guard alarmed other locals to gather. The rebels opened fire and used hand grenades to attack the indigenous leaders.
The Nasa are semi-autonomous and administer, patrol, and govern their own region. The guard consists of volunteers and does not consider themselves a police force, according to BBC. They are unarmed mediators who carry wooden staffs.
Indigenous leaders believe Duque’s visit is too little, too late.
Since Colombia’s 2016 peace accord, dozens of indigenous and social leaders have been assassinated. Militant dissidents have used violent methods to take control over former rebel territories and drug routes.
In the Cauca state, one of the country’s most lucrative and fast-growing regions for cocaine production, 14 tribal members have been killed.
“Our only weapon is our unity and spirituality,” Luis Acosta, national coordinator of the indigenous guards, told Associated Press. “[The dissidents] don’t allow us to control our territories because we reject the logic of war.”
Colombian indigenous communities have consistently decried the government’s complacency in what they say is a “genocide” where they have become collateral damage in ongoing conflicts between leftist rebels, state security forces, and right-wing paramilitaries.
Colombia’s government launches a military offensive to detain the dissidents.
The government launched an initial investigation that suggested the act was in retaliation to the capture of three Farc defectors by indigenous locals.
“Clearly, here we have a longstanding threat of drug trafficking groups, and of dissidents, who want to intimidate the population,” Duque told reporters, according to The Guardian. “I hope to make some important announcements about operational capacity in the region and the capacity we will have to face these threats.”
However, many felt Duque was just paying lip service.
“The region where this massacre took place is a first-tier zone for violence, and the defense sector surely knows this but the response to repeated calls for help from indigenous communities has been far from adequate,” Adam Isacson, a security analyst at the Washington Office on Latin America, told reporters.
Opposition politicians accuse the government of genocide.
“What is underway in Colombia is an indigenous genocide, and it will not stop if international justice does not appear,” Senator Gustavo Petro tweeted.
While the 2016 peace accord was meant to end a civil war that displaced 7 million Colombians and killed 260,000, violence has become the status quo for the Cauca province. A residual power vacuum leftover by Farc appears to have causedconflicts over territory, drug routes, land rights, and resources where indigenous people are often targets.
Just last month, Karina García a mayoral candidate and three others on the campaign were murdered. Since 2016, according to Colombia’s human rights ombudsman, 486 activists and human rights defenders have been murdered.
“The government says the right things, but doesn’t do anything,” said Eduin Marcelo Capaz, an indigenous human rights coordinator said. “Duque will say whatever he has to to cover up his government’s ineffectiveness and disinterest in protecting us.”
United Nations and the Organization of American States urge Colombia’s government to end violence against indigenous groups.
Last April, the UN and OAS urged Duque to avoid violence in the Cauca province as tensions escalated between indigenous folk and dissidents.
Only time will tell if Colombia’s promise to protect its indigenous folk is real because so far it hasn’t been.
“People are being left unprotected by their government in an area that is being disputed among several armed and criminal groups,” Isacson said. “Colombia must prioritize protecting these communities, working with their leaderships, to prevent another horrible tragedy.”
On Sunday, voters in Bogota, Colombia made history by electing not only their first female mayor in the history of the city but the first openly gay mayor as well. Claudia Lopez Hernandez won 35.2% of the vote (which equals around 1.1 million votes), beating out her competitor Carlos Fernando Galán who followed her with 32.5% of the vote. Lopez’s win is making international headlines because of the significance of the position–in Colombia, the mayor of Bogota is considered the second most powerful political position in the country–second only to the president.
Lopez celebrated her victory by kissing her partner Angélica Lozano–also a Green Alliance politician. Surrounded by her supporters, Lopez addressed the crowd: “This is the day of the woman. We knew that only by uniting could we win. We did that. We united, we won and we made history!”.
Lopez is no stranger to the political world–not only did she earn her Ph.D. in Political Science from Northwestern University in the U.S., but she has worked for years to fight corruption in Colombia’s government.
On the campaign trail, Lopez marketed herself as an “incorruptible” candidate, making her attractive to Bogotans who were tired of their city’s rampant corruption throughout the political sector. And it’s not only Lopez’s academic record that’s impressive. Lopez began her career as a student activist in the ’90s, lending her voice to a movement that spurred on Colombia’s adoption of a nationwide constitution. From there, she became a journalist, then a consultant to the United Nations, and finally, a researcher investigating corruption within Colombia’s congress. In 2014, she was elected to Colombia’s senate as a member of the Green Alliance Party.
Lopez, who is a member of the Green Alliance Party, is considered to be “center-left” on Bogota’s political spectrum. During her candidacy, she supported advancing minority rights and proposed creating more educational opportunities for people over 45 and ramping up law enforcement in the capital, according to the BBC.
Lopez’s win is monumental not only for women and the LGBT community, but for those who a tired of seeing their city dominated by corrupt politicians.
In Colombia, political corruption has long been a scourge on the government. The country has an unfortunate history of those within power embezzling public funds, bribing officials, and attempting to rig elections. Voters have been vocal about their outrage over what they believe is a deeply broken political machine. In recent years, the civil unrest over corruption has reached new heights. In 2016, up to 16,000 Colombians took to Bogota’s streets to protest the widespread bribery of public officials.
And while past political candidates have vowed to fight corruption through policy changes, the city has seen little outcome from these campaign-trail promises. Many are optimistic that Lopez’s unusual political pedigree will be the change Bogota needs to combat the city’s structural corruption. “For the first time in Colombian history a woman is mayor of the capital city Bogota,” said one Twitter user. “[She’s] the only politician I trust in this m***** country and yeah, she’s a lesbian”.
As for the people of Bogota, many are proud that their city elected someone who, years ago, would’ve been an unlikely winner.
Many Colombians are taking to Twitter to express their joy over the election results. It’s not every day that history is made in such a monumental way.
For many, Claudia Lopez Hernandez’s election is a sign of hope.
This is @ClaudiaLopez, the new mayor of #Bogota, kissing her partner @AngelicaLozanoC in celebration after today’s elections. This is a momentous symbol, a sign of change and of good things to come. That I have the privilege of calling them my friends only makes this sweeter.
Some people are saying that her election is renewing their faith in the democratic process:
It can be hard to remain positive about politics when we’re bombarded with bad news all day. Sometimes, all it takes is one positive event to keep us optimistic.
Of course, some people believe that we should be celebrating Lopez’s stellar qualifications, not her gender or sexual orientation:
Although it’s true that Lopez won the election regardless of being a gay woman, for many, it’s exciting that she was able to accomplish such a feat without hiding who she is.
And of course, many Colombians are feeling renewed patriotism for their country.
In the face of constant news about corruption, sexism, and homophobia, there’s nothing more refreshing than hearing a population came together, rejected prejudice, and voted their conscience.
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