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  • Born Carla Reyna in Monterrey, in the city that produced Mexico

    Born Carla Reyna in Monterrey, in the city that produced Mexico's most famous rappers Control Machete, Nina Dioz has spent the past decade patiently carving out a name for herself in an otherwise male-dominated genre. | Photo: Nina Dioz

To mark International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, four of Latin America's most outspoken female rap stars deliver damning indictments against sexual harassment.

1. Nina Dioz, aka Carla Reyna (Mexico):

By 2014, Dioz had made the decision to relocate to Los Angeles, California. But she hasn't forgotten the dangers women face daily on the streets of Mexico City. "Some of my friends don't leave their house without pepper spray; insecurity keeps worsening, being alive is in itself a huge achievement. There's nothing you can do really to protect yourself: you can take a licensed cab one day and never come back. "Sexual abuses don't just occur in the Hollywood industry, or the music industry. It's everywhere: at home, in the streets. They abuse us and then they blame us for being abused, because machismo is so deeply rooted in culture and society. "Being a recluse at home is not a viable option. What needs to change is the impunity: the way women victims of abuses are insulted, called liars, drunk, provocative; deserving to be killed because they were cheating on their partner. Women need to speak out, and fear will change sides." Since moving to the United States, Dioz has worked with hip-hop producers such as Captain Planet and Futura, and was recently selected as part of the Smirnoff Sound Collective to promote diversity in electronic music.

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Shocked at the physical affront, she still recalls how the incident left her feeling unsafe in public spaces for a long time afterwards. When she finally recovered from the trauma several years later and dived back into the hip hop scene, it was as Nina Dioz – and she gripped a microphone firmly in her hand.

"I felt like I needed to create a space for myself and for women who wanted to be part of the hip hop scene, where we would not feel unsafe," Dioz told teleSUR.

2014, Dioz had made the decision to relocate to Los Angeles, California. But she hasn't forgotten the dangers women face daily on the streets of Mexico City. 

"Some of my friends don't leave their house without pepper spray; insecurity keeps worsening, being alive is in itself a huge achievement. There's nothing you can do really to protect yourself: you can take a licensed cab one day and never come back.

"Sexual abuses don't just occur in the Hollywood industry, or the music industry. It's everywhere: at home, in the streets. They abuse us and then they blame us for being abused, because machismo is so deeply rooted in culture and society.

"Being a recluse at home is not a viable option. What needs to change is the impunity: the way women victims of abuses are insulted, called liars, drunk, provocative; deserving to be killed because they were cheating on their partner. Women need to speak out, and fear will change sides."

Since moving to the United States, Dioz has worked with hip-hop producers such as Captain Planet and Futura, and was recently selected as part of the Smirnoff Sound Collective to promote diversity in electronic music.

Follow Nina Dioz on Soundcloud, Instagram and Facebook, and watch for her coming album, "Fuego Boulevard," due to be released next year. 

 

2. La Fina, aka Yamay Mejias Hernandez (Cuba):

 

Yamay is one of the first-generation protagonists of the Cuban rap scene, and has been spitting rhymes with Union Perfecta since 2001. Raped not once but twice at an early age, Yamay transformed her traumatic experiences into an empowerment to become emancipated solo rapper La Fina.

In 2012, Yamay founded the Caribbean island's first project promoting women rappers: "Somos Mucho Mas" (We Are Much More), uniting female artists from Cape San Antonio to Punta de Maisi. The collective was later responsible for launching Cuba's first all-woman hip-hop festival, which went on to tour Mexico, Germany and the United States.

 

 

"Together, we are strong and powerful," she told teleSUR, stressing the need for spaces across the world in which women can gather and share their experiences.

"We have enough reasons to fight together and be united in order to exterminate machismo, to fight gender violence, racism, femicides, and all kinds of prejudices that directly harm us.

"It's a long way, but we will make it, and all I wish is that if ever I disappear before we can reach our objectives, other women can take over my legacy and keep on the fight."

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During a recent tour of New York, Yamay recorded her second album, "Estoy En Eso" (I'm On It), produced by Bronx-based DJs Eli Efi and De la Ceiba. Her first album, released in 2012, is entitled "Llego La Fina" (La Fina Arrived). 

Follow Yamay on SoundcloudFacebook and Instagram to catch the coming release "Yo Soy Negra" (I Am Black), a powerful and unapologetic account of her personal experience as a woman of color.

 

3. Caye Cayejera, aka Cayetana Salao (Ecuador):

 

Cayetana had been listening to hip hop and freestyling since she was young, so it was only natural that the human rights activist would eventually pursue music as a tool for social transformation. The year was 2009, and she had been experimenting with the use of performance art and street theater as weapons in the fight for rights for LGBTI people and Indigenous women before switching her focus to rap.

"I found this kind of political art was the best way to denounce abuses —usually invisible in the mainstream media or the public sphere," she told teleSUR.

"In Latin America, hip hop has strongly maintained its roots with the political struggle, unlike in the United States. Here, hip hop has been very permeable with the social struggles we are fighting on a daily basis."

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One of Catayena's main concerns is the recent wave of conservatism threatening Ecuadorean women's reproductive rights. Hardcore Catholic groups pressuring the government to implement a full abortion ban recently launched a campaign entitled "Con Mis Hijos No Te Metas" (Don't Mess With My Children), in response to a bill debated in Congress to teach gender equality at school.

Cayetana, who self-defines as a feminist lesbian trans, strongly criticized the lack of protection offered to LGBTI people, who often find themselves the victims of torture, rape or murder, while the perpetrators of these hate crimes commit them with impunity.

In her second album, "Mantenganse," Cayetana pays tribute to the musical heritage of the Indigenous peoples of Ecuador. She has so far shared the stage with global names such as La Mala Rodriguez and Kali Mutsa at Panama's Festival Abierto, and toured Argentina, Chile and Bolivia. Follow Cayetana on Soundcloud.

 

4. Planta Carnivora, aka Fabiola Alarcon (Chile):

 

"Planta Carnivora" (Carnivorous Plant) is a euphemism for "Toothed Vagina," says this Chilean rapper. It's also the name of Fabiola Alarcon's first hit, which made her an international phenomenon in 2012. The term refers to the misogynistic myth deterring men from having sex with strange women, the implication being that at best they would transmit sexual infections or leave them impotent; at worst, they could sever a man's member altogether.

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Deliciously provocative yet poetic in her flow, Fabiola has created her own sound which she names "rapon," just as reggaeton was named after "reggae." "Rapponing" started out as a personal challenge: a fan of old-school hip hop artists Public Ennemy and Roxanna Shanté, Planta Carnivora wanted to demonstrate that women can commandeer the same language as men, despite the stigma. 

The bigots who criticized her early craft only made her stronger, and standing her ground soon paid off: at the invitation of Converse Rubber Tracks, Planta Carnivora recorded her first album in OutKast's mythical Stankonia studio in Atlanta, in the United States.

 

"Being a woman in Chile means living every day with some level of difficulty or injustice, because Chilean society still has a very conservative idea of women — even if women have more rights than 50 years ago," Planta Carnivora told teleSUR.

"The ideal woman is a mother, and any woman who does not fulfill that role, especially if she's over 30 years old, is strongly discriminated against by both society and public policies: for instance, access to social benefits requires women to be part of a household with children.

"Being a woman in Chile implies suffering from discrimination, harassment and abuses, and if she tries to stand up against it, she's immediately undermined and frowned upon." 

Planta Carnivora has just released her new album, "Squirt," co-produced with Marcelo Pena. Listen on Soundcloud, Spotify and Apple Music. As Planta Carnivora puts it: "Don't fear. Listen!"


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