Words of Revolution— a New Documentary on Salvadoran Hip-Hop
It’s easy to make the connection between the dissemination of hip-hop in El Salvador and Salvadoran gang culture: Mara Salvatrucha, named the world’s most dangerous gang by National Geographic, has its origins in Los Angeles around the same time LA gangster rap was blowing up. However, the complete picture is more complex than that, and a new documentary titled Words of Revolution aims to shed light on the trajectory of Salvadoran hip-hop. The film showcases how Salvadorans use hip-hop to articulate the generational trauma of civil war and migration. SalvaCultura had the opportunity to chat with the filmmaker, Junior Gonzalez, and talk about the new film.
SalvaCultura: Junior, first can you tell us about yourself?
Junior Gonzalez: I am a first generation Salvadoran-American from the Bay Area in California. My sister and I grew up with a single parent mother at an early age. My parents migrated here to the states in the late 70’s from El Salvador looking for a better way of life. I learned my hard-working habits and how to hustle at an early age…I guess you can say I learned that from my mother. At that time my mom was on her own with little help and she didn’t even know English. It was tough times growing-up with a single parent because we lived poor and we struggled. But my mother’s heart and soul never gave up on faith. From my mother, I learned to always stay positive, reach for the stars, and never give up on a dream. She is a big part of who I am today. One of my accomplishments that I am very proud of and I really owe it to my mother is when I received a M.F.A from Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles. That is where I got my masters in Television. She really pushed me to go chase what I love… movies.
SC: Can you tell us a bit about Salvadoran hip-hop history? And where do you see Salvadoran hip-hop going?
Junior: As far as the history of Salvadoran Hip-Hop…well I just learned it from making my documentary. From my understanding, the group Reyes Del Bajo Mundo (RDBM) who are based in New York are considered to be the pioneers of Salvi Hip-hop (Salvi is the new word that the community is using now). When RDBM migrated to the states in the 80’s they became part of the explosion of hip-hop when it first started in New York. They were going back and forth to their homeland and New York to help bring identity to the culture through their music.
Salvi Hip-Hop is growing because the urban culture within the community is growing. I see more youngsters getting into hip-hop because it gives a voice to the “voiceless.” And if you understand the history of Hip-Hop, the music has always been about speaking your mind and talking about social issues. The music has obviously grown and it now has different types of messages, but the root of Hip-Hop has always been about representing the people and giving that “voice.”
SC: Why did you feel compelled to make this movie?
(Read the full Q&A here)