Esther van der Zijden is using hip-hop to combat gangster violence in Guatemala City. She gave a talk to Wageningen students together with two Guatemalan breakdancers.
A street thing
Around 3,000 children are murdered each year in Guatemala City. Many children grow up in slums where it is unsafe and extremely corrupt. Gang fights are a daily event. Children hang around on the streets all day. The gangs adopt the children as members of their 'family' and make them feel they belong somewhere. Then the children are given tasks, varying from dealing drugs to murdering.
At the hip-hop school 120 children get free lessons three times a week. Now they clash in energetic breakdance battles rather than fighting each other in gangs. Esther: 'Hip-hop is cool, physical and a street thing. It appeals to the kids. They become part of a crew where everyone respects each other and where they don't have to deal drugs or murder in order to belong.'
Tito, one of the breakdancers from Guatemala, has experienced first-hand how hip-hop can be an alternative to the gangster life. 'I grew up in the slums alongside the gangs. But I kept out of the gangster scene thanks to breakdancing. Now I earn money giving children dance lessons', he says. Then he starts to breakdance on his hands, accompanied by a cool beat. An audience of about fifty people watches him.