Colombia: Video Mapping the City to Hip Hop

In just four days, a creative cast of characters got together in the city of Medellin where they set out to produce videos and place them on a map of the city to reflect topics that affect the communities such as militarization, poverty, forced displacement, crimes of state and resistance movements.

Creative Commons 3.0 By/SA/NC 2010

As Pablo from the Hackitectura collective who ran the workshop, explains:

Los temas que tratamos en los videos fueron el resultado del contexto en el que nos movimos: militarización, pobreza, desplazamiento forzoso de población, crímenes de estado, resistencias… Estas duras realidades constrataban con la política institucional de construcción de la idea de “Medellin Digital”, con algunas muy buenas políticas públicas en marcha como los parques biblioteca de recien construcción.

The topics we focused on in the videos were a result of the context in which we live: militarization, poverty, forced displacement of the population, crimes of the state, resistances… these harsh realities contrasted with the institutional politics in building the idea of a “Digital Medellin”, with some very good public policies on foot such as the recently built library parks.

The workshop was organized within the LabSurLab initiative by the Museum of Modern Art of Medellín (MAMM). As the participants settled on a project related to geomapping videos, they decided that instead of using existing footage they would record new material. So out they went to the San Javier area where the infamous Orion operation took place several years ago, to the hills of Moravia where displaced Colombians made their homes only to be relocated once again and in downtown Medellin, where students took to the streets in marches and demonstrations to ensure the continuity of the public Antioquia University.

The next videos are the results:

Colectivo Platohedro went to Moravia [es], an area of the city where in the past internally displaced families turned to as a possible haven, only to find out that the government had the zone destined for a landfill. The garbage piled up until the government realized that there were more than 15,000 people living in the area, and the state's efforts in relocating them were not being fruitful.

Only a handful of years ago did the government's plan to build homes and relocate the families living over the landfill bear fruit, and as the families leave their hill, a flag is placed where their makeshift homes used to stand:

Moravia was also one of the battlefields in which the power struggle between drug cartels took place, and drug cartel “capo” or boss Pablo Escobar, then won the loyalty of the people in Moravia by giving them a soccer field. This field is now the place where current generations turn away from trafficking and armed conflict by immersing themselves in music, art, culture and sports. In the next video by collective Scattered Head we see how:

En la cancha de Moravia ya no hay balaceras sino puro talento urbano.

In the soccer field of Moravia there are no longer shootings but pure urban talent.

The city of Medellín is divided in “comunas”, a system based off Paris’ arrondisements. The Comuna 13 has been for many years synonymous with armed conflict as well as the polemic military operation Orion back in 2002. Instead of finishing off the armed conflict in the area, the operation generated backlash from these groups towards the community, ending with more than 128 dead people who were abducted or disappeared and whose bodies lay in the “escombrera”, a bald patch of mountain full of rubble, concrete and twisted rebar from demolished buildings.

The state has debated over sifting through the tons of rubble to find the bodies, or whether to turn the whole site into a memorial, where the dead will remain buried overlooking the streets and homes they inhabited when living.

HipHop has become a way in which youth explain their reality and make a stand:

El ritmo vertiginoso de la Comuna 13 ha generado movimientos juveniles que se resisten a la guerra. El grafiti es la memoria de los que están y los que se fueron así como el hip hop, la voz furiosa que se alza contra el poder de las armas. Esta generación esta indignada de su pasado y de la realidad que les toca vivir. Por esto, crea contra respuestas a la violencia injustificada del sector, entonces alzan la voz y empuñan sus aerosoles.

The vertiginous rhythm of the Comuna 13 has generated youth movements which resist war. Graffiti is the memory of those who are still here and those who have already departed and hip-hop is the furious voice rising against the power of weapons. This generation is indignant of its past and the reality they live. That is why it counters unjustified violence in the area with counter-responses by rising their voices and wielding their spray cans.

Within this conflicted environment are some voices of people who remain neutral and who when forced to pick sides choose to side with those who are innocent to all problems such as the young, the elderly and the disabled. Luz Amparo is one of those people whose assistance and help has made her a community leader.

On April 7, the students of the University of Antioquia took to the streets to express their rejection of the budget cuts which would reduce the allocated percentage that goes to public higher education as well as the militarization of the university campus; police swarm the university campus causing panic among students in an attempt to control possible splinter cells of paramilitary or terrorist organizations.

The students’ marches through main streets in the city of Medellin is disruptive to the general population, and sometimes they are perceived negatively and stigmatized. A group of students in this march recognized the attention they were getting and tried to get those onlookers on their side with a rhyming chant: “You on the sidelines! Join the crowd. Your children are students and you are a worker.”

You can browse the map, see more videos on their repository and search the other activities done during the LabSurLab gathering. If you want to learn more about the Comuna 13, you can also follow HiperBarrio, a blogging initiative of youth in the area which started thanks to Rising Voices sponsoring.

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