Montes/Montanhas in Latin American Hip Hop

Nov 14, 2023 | Gems

From the mysterious mountains of Latin America, some compelling gems arise in hip-hop lyrics. The rap crew, Crack Family from Bogotá, Colombia rhymes in their hit “Medicina” (which has some very cool images of Colombian mountains in the music video):
“Marihuana (Bazuca), get a little higher / Los rituales del monte, cura pa’ las almas / Give it fire (Montes), como el Himalaya / Fumigando las penas y otras energías malas.”
Here we see the mountains as both a blessing and something threatening just like the central idea of the tune “Medicina” which begins with the verses: “que te cura o te mata” (it heals you or kills you). Considering that mountains have a wide range of meanings in the Latin American context as a place wherein coffee plantations but also cultivations of drugs like marijuana and cocaine (another localizing gem of Colombian hip hop) are located, it is not by chance that Crack Family plays with that idea in a dual sense.
Mountains can be also the place of sociopolitical resistance as happens with the Zapatista Movement in Chiapas, Mexico. Other Latin American artists play with that gem as well like Colombian rapper Granuja in “Impertinencia” rapping that we (Latinxs) are all indigenous people from the mountains of South America and Brazilian super rap group DV Tribo in “Intro” stating that they come from the sacred mountains of Minas Gerais state. Not by chance, in many indigenous cosmologies of Latin America mountains are considered a sacred place. For the Yanomami people it is one of the sites where the xapiri spirits live.
Perhaps most importantly, the female indigenous hip-hop duo, Motilonas Rap, center the mountains of Catatumbo, Colombia in their eco-activist music–an ideal example of a Montañas gem in this study. Indeed, their line “mistico como plantas que sanan” [mystical like plants that heal] on the track “Catatumberas”, reveals a continuity between Crack Family’s “Medicina” and their work.  As Cejaz Negraz of Crack Family explained in an interview with me, “words can heal or destroy.”
   -Gustavo “Gusmão” Souza Marques