“This Isn’t Underground; This Is Highlands”: Mayan-Language Hip Hop, Cultural Resilience, and Youth Education in Guatemala
Abstract

Abstract:

The Maya hip hop scene that is currently growing around Lake Atitlán, Guatemala seeks to educate Maya youth about their culture by way of lyrics in Mayan languages as well as references to historical Maya texts such as the Popol Wuj and the Chilam Balam. This musical genre combines ancestral local knowledge, accessed by way of pre-Colombian texts and sacred fire ceremonies, with popular music in a manner that attracts Maya youth who may otherwise receive little formal education about their own Maya culture. Through the use of storytelling in hip hop, these songs construe meaning through a combination of the text and their context, empowering Maya youth to reflect upon and critically consider their social, economic, and cultural milieu. By adapting an international music form to a local context, a characteristic endemic to hip hop across the globe, Maya hip hop produced by MC Tz’utu Kan and the group Balam Ajpu is an indicator of a cultural resilience that subverts traditional power structures and offers otherwise disenfranchised youth an opportunity to exercise agency.


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