Venezuela’s Hip-hop Rebels

June 8, 2012

There’s music, there’s politics, and there’s the hope of revolution in Venezuela. Founded in 2003, the Hip-Hop Revolución (HHR) movement brings together like-minded young people from across the country to organize festivals and help to educate each other. HRR has created 31 hip-hop schools across the country, which teenagers can attend in conjunction with their normal day-to-day schooling. Normally, those who attend the hip-hop schools learn hip-hop skills for four days per week and have one day per week of political discussion. However, in some schools, the students had decided they preferred the ratio the other way around, and politics has taken center stage.

HRR embraces a culture of teaching and giving. Once participants have ‘graduated’ from the course, they are encouraged to become tutors to the next batch of attendees. Most graduates come from low-income backgrounds, and many go on to establish schools in their local areas.To many of the participants, the hip-hop schools are another element of a new spirit of unity and solidarity in their local communities. In their eyes, hip-hop and the political struggle are inextricably linked, and this is their chance to play a tangible part in building the better future they want to grow up in.

At a hip-hop school we visited near Charallave while filming for a documentary about HRR, about an hour south of Venezuela’s capital Caracas, one student told us how he had done just that. First, he approached the political leaders in the area, who saw the project as a good idea. Then, he approached the gang leaders in the neighbourhood, and they agreed to make sure the kids got to and from their classes without being hassled.

HHR took us from the school to a nearby neighbourhood, where music equipment had been set up for a show local HHR members were putting on for the community. These hip-hop workshops are a monthly occurrence, so the young people in the area know when to come. As the music started, kids came out from their houses, many of them still dressed in their school uniforms. Entire families came out to their balconies to watch what was going on below. Despite the heavy rain that afternoon, a crowd quickly grew. Many of the kids were very young, and without shoes or a care in the world, they washed their feet in the huge puddles of rainwater.

Our trip to Venezuela also coincided with the inauguration and first ever conference of CELAC, the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States. Thirty-three presidents from all of the countries of the Americas (except the US and Canada) were in Caracas for the event. Photo exhibitions displayed on central avenues in the days preceding the conference expressed solidarity with the people of Cuba, Libya and Iraq, the workers’ movement in Argentina, the Palestinian people, or the Occupy Wall Street movement. “CELAC is the most important development in the last 200 years,” Jamil, a member of HHR, told us. “I’m a revolutionary from my heart. If [President] Chavez fucks around and flips on us, we’re gonna flip on him. And that’s what I think he expects from us. You know what I mean? That’s why he is so serious with his proposals and with what he does. He has the confidence that he won’t flip on the people. And he understands that capitalism is crumbling. And this is our time, this is our moment, for Latin America, for Venezuela and for us.” 


By Jody McIntyre (@jodymcintyre& Pablo Navarrete (@pablonav1)