To the irresistible sounds of Andean instruments like the charango, bombo, chajchas and quena, the Ecuadorean rapper challenges people to put aside self-hate, racism and classism and join him on the pista: his new video ‘Cholonizacion’ is a proud reappropriation of the slur cholo, a term still widely used against indigenous and mestizo communities across Latin America and the Caribbean.
“The idea behind ‘Cholonizacion’ was to decolonize minds, to demonstrate that we are all going through the same issues related to modernity, trying to connect us in a horizontal way because in Latin America we do not accept our identities,” Guanaco said in an interview with teleSUR. “We don’t manage to make this identity and variety visible, yet there is such a powerful mestizaje culture, especially in Ecuador.”
Ecuador’s diversity is on full display in the video, from the Maitresse Dance Ochun collective repping Afro-Ecuadoreans, to the Salasca indigenous tribe from Tungurahua. You’ll also spot the Ecuadorean street vendor serving healthy aloe-vera-infused juices that even Gwyneth Paltrow would love to put her hands on — balancing out the later effects of the guatita, or tripe stew, and other typical Ecuadorean fried dishes. The video closes with a typical Ecuadorian sight and sound: the racket of trash recyclers shouting for second-hand items they buy as they slowly drive past houses.
But 'Cholonizacion' is not a quaint postcard of Ecuador’s traditional cultures and folklorism: it shows their subtle fusion with contemporaneity. They all coexist inside the head of the masked character opening the video, Guanchaka — Guanaco’s avatar as a beatmaker. Throughout the video, Guanchaka performs an ancestral ritual with Guanaco and Brazilian fellow MC Emicida, slowly turning the natural fire into LEDs, dancing to the organic sound of the bandas de pueblo and the digital beats from samplers, surrounded by indigenous designs and lasers.
At a time when reclaiming one’s chola identity seems to have become fashionable in the United States, Guanaco is no poser and has long been at the forefront of a movement reclaiming pride for the Global South. Sudacaya, the name of his band founded in 2002, had already been reappropriating the derogatory term sudaca (“southerner”) as a means of empowerment.
He has also been actively involved with local communities for long, including with his youth project 'Hip Hop para las Calles' (Hip Hop for the Streets). On the phone, he insisted that the point of “Cholonizacion” is above all empathy and humanism: “It’s a matter of breaking stereotypes, beyond the racial ones, also gender and others, to start seeing each other as human beings.”
It was no surprise then that on “Cholonizacion,” he linked up with one of Brazil’s most prominent lyricists Emicida, whose name is a play on the words MC and homicide — because he’s a killer on the mic. Emicida also has a long record of defending the rights of the marginalized living in Brazil’s favelas, speaking out against police brutality and unfair evictions.
The video, shot in Quito and directed by Guanaco’s historic crew Nacion Films from his birth city Ambato, announces Guanaco’s eponymous album to be released next year.