Cinco de Mayo Playlist: 10 Songs of Resistance

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For some, the first week of May becomes a point of reflection. Whether it’s because May is gray and things may look gloomy all around, or because we have these, let’s say, holidays, or celebrations, not really considered legitimately “official” enough to take the day off work. The overall gist of May Day is to, yes, take the day off work, along with all those who work under minimum wage to appreciate all their hard labor of picking our fruit, cleaning our streets, because we and white collared people wouldn’t get by without them.

Right after, we have Cinco de Mayo, where, here, we get a second chance to party our asses off like if it were spring break again, and celebrate the “Mexican way” with the most common chichés and stereotypes involving donkeys, lots of tequila, huge sombreros, and a lot of yelling of ajuuaaaa! Let us remind you that we already told you what the more truthful meaning behind this celebration is in this article. Which I’ll briefly re-explain in this ONE sentence: it is NOT Mexican Independence Day for those who don’t know yet, but a celebration of victory when France attempted to intervene Mexico via Puebla in 1852.

The 10 songs that Juan Data and I have collected bring about themes of protests and revolution, because after all, May Day and Cinco de mayo do represent that. These tracks span since the ’90s, when the emergence of rock en español and conscious hip hop took fuller force in Latin America and Spain which all show different viewpoints of the voiceless and under-representative population. Artists become another source for subaltern knowledge. We realize there are tons of tunes worthy of a mention, but we only have room for ten, so take a listen:

by Geronación

During the golden age of Spanish rap (1997/2000) most rappers were focused on showing off skills, coming up with the most original verses and contrived rhyme structures and thus perfecting the art of flow. But among all the ego-tripping, one Spanish group stood out for having also a cause and a message.

Even though Geronación is from Girona, (in the outskirts of Barcelona), these rappers seem to be very well versed in the Latin American struggle, which they masterfully summarize on this 1998 classic. Latin American top tyrants, Videla, Batista, Fujimori and Pinochet all get name-dropped on this eloquent and articulate pro-guerrilla anthem by some kids in Spain who maybe just read too much in Galeano. -JD

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by Jorge Drexler

With no doubt, I’d claim that this Uruguayan poet/singer-songwriter was born with something to say. As the offspring of a German Jewish parent who fled the holocaust with his family as a child, I’m sure Jorge Drexler had an eye-opening upbringing.  However that was like, it certainly sparked a whole field of expression and distinctions worldwide atrocities.

“Disneylandia” first appeared in Drexler’s 9th album in 2006, 12 segundos en obsuridad, and it exposed a big gigantic lens towards the fucked-up particularities that the power elite do to keep themselves on the top. Whether it’s for cash — stealing to sell Aztec treasures to US museums; securing power — teaching Chinese children Greek literature as opposed of their own; denying entrance — forbidding Iraqi kids to enter the American council of Egypt’s own Disneyland, “the happiest place on earth,” Disneyland is a simulacrum for the privileged based on the hard and oppressive labor of the underprivileged -IR

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by Actitud María Marta

These girls have been rapping angry rants against the system since their debut in the mid-’90s as protégées of Todos Tus Muertos. But none of their songs were so centered in its target and harsh in their attack as 2001’s “Hijo Mío.”

Best thing about Actitud María Marta is they are not just about rapping all those accusations on the mic, they are consequent with their message and have always been deeply involved in the political struggle, from playing at pretty much every rally organized by the children of the disappeared during the military dictatorship in their country, to performing in Venezuela at President Chávez’s own TV show. -JD

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by Calle 13
[Puerto Rico]

Out of the countless songs this imaginative outspoken Boricua duo have under their repertoire, “El Hormiguero” stands out for its condense, metaphorical lyrics and content relating to foreign invaders and workers struggles — perfect for this list.

Ants and insects swarm when you least expect them. They invade, infest, and conquer territories in unwanted places, underground. There’s no need to directly give ya the literal meaning of this well-known emblem that’s occurred throughout world history. Calle 13 counter-narrates it with wit, humor and most importantly, balls.

They are at the forefront of the music industry, winning a shit ton of awards and Grammys, yet, what they do is very well lauded by the rest of us for bashing and relieving the corruptions of the system while still knowing how to work with it and be a part of it. -IR

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by Makiza

We all are very familiar with Ana Tijoux‘s “Shock,” her song in support of the Chilean student’s fight for a free public education. But what many of you may not know is that the French-Chilean femcee was already making headlines in the ’90s for protest songs like this one, signed by her former group, Makiza (but in reality, it is more like a duet between Ana and guest rapper Epicentro).

The song, released as the second single of Makiza‘s official debut album in 1999, raised some controversy in its day and even confronted censorship for its explicit content. Among many other accusations, Ana talks openly about the problem with xenophobia against Peruvian immigrants in Chile. -JD

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by Molotov

The emergence of Mexico City’s rap rock quartet Molotov makes all the sense. 1995 was a time of intense political change where Mexico’s ruling party, PRI, leftist guerrilla insurgency, EZLN, and the establishment of Operation Gatekeeper (the 2,000 mile fence that divides US and Mexico) were shaking up the country’s social and political order. The majority of the unprivileged citizens lost complete reliance on the government and its media outlets for its history of censoring corruptions, consistently lying about number of deaths, and sensationalizing the current state as a progressive one (e.g. 1968 student movement, massacre of Talelolco, Mexico City’s 1985 earthquake).

Thankfully, Molotov rose to the scene to galvanize the streets of Mexico City and challenge power with their fuck-you-to-the-system classic anthem, “Gimme Tha Power” to tell how shit was really going down. Viva Mexico, cabrones! -IR

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by Bersuit

In the shape of a pseudo-rap, Argentine party-rockers Bersuit Vergarabat (most commonly referred to as La Bersuit) launched in 1998 this hardcore rant against the hyper-corruption of Menem’s era government and it became an instant controversial hit.

In reality the song was a cover of the lesser known Las Manos de Filippi, the same guys who penned the classic psychedelic cumbia “El Himno del Cucumelo.” “Sr. Cobranza” makes some direct accusations against then-president Menem and his entourage for being supposedly involved in drug trafficking, while the everyday folk in the streets were being arrested for just smoking pot. -JD

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by Tijuana No!

Mexico’s hardcore punk ska band Tijuana No! is notorious for talking shit about the border patrol and its overly accessorized surveillance gear. Most of the bands’ half-sung/half-shouted songs were about immigrants border crossing, their hard, crazy life in TJ, and the hardships of the poor and under-representative population.

Their album Contra-Revolución was named after the infamous street of Tijuana’s Avenida Revolución, which is very well known for its debauchery happs: drug slanging, prostitution, Mexican child labor, etc. And all the while, clubs and party’s are open till 6 am; basically a frat boy’s Disneyland — and all the things that are against revolution. “Seguimos Andando” comes in that album, and it’s about the struggles that undocumented immigrants face in the U.S., which also reminds the listener that the Mexicans where there first before the White people.

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by Aterciopelados

Armed with an AK47 guitar and dressed like a guerrillera, Andrea Echeverri gets all combative on this 2006 track that’s pretty much like a class she’s giving to anybody who’s planning on writing protest songs.

First she lists all the multiple targets you can focus your songs on (warmongers, loggers, sport-hunters, fumigators, etc.) and then gives you a long list of exemplary songwriters to model your compositions after (Manu Chao, Victor Jara, Mercedes Sosa, Pablo Milanés, Silvio Rodríguez, Violeta Parra, etc). Now get your pen and paper and start writing your own.

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by Outernational

New York-based future rock quintet have been very active in the the debates about immigration partaking performing in rallies and other sociopolitical protests. Their latest single and title-track “Todos Somos Ilegales” features two of the key players of music and resistance, Residente of Calle 13 and RATM’s Tom Morello where Morello screeches loud guitar riffs of pura resistencia creativa, and René spits rhymes of street knowledge, while bringing to attention the unjust laws of Arizona, and highlighting the viewpoints of the immigrants’ struggles.

Outernational is in the process of completing their music video for this very song, in which the band invites fans/listeners/activists to partake in it by recording themselves singing one of the versus, perhaps either playing a guitar or in front of that gated-border, etc. We also have an exclusive interview with them, so stay tuned for that early next week! We’ll tell ya that Outernational is off to big things and is becoming a voice of alternative truths. We surely await to see and hear more of them conscientisizing the rest of the dormant public. -IR

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Tell us which protest song you like the most, if or if not on this list, below!