News - January 22, 2010

Hip-hop alternative to gangster life

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.

Tito from Guatemala City: 'I have kept out of the gangster scene thanks to breakdancing.'
Esther van der Zijden was a General Culture Studies student in Amsterdam. She was teaching Spanish and Maths in the slums of Guatemala City when a group of young people came up to her and asked if they could use the school buildings for breakdancing. 'I wanted to do something to help them so I organized a breakdancing workshop. When I saw how the children began to flourish, I decided to start up the hip-hop school Trasciende', Esther told the audience who had flocked to the International Club. Together with two breakdancers from Guatemala City, she had been invited by Ipso Facto and Otherwise to give a talk on Tuesday evening 19 January.
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.' 
Cool beat
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.