Jeison Castaño “Jeihhco”

Right to peace Artivism
Casa Kolacho
Jeihhco is activist for peace, coexistence, and non-violence in Medellín communes, where a large part of the population are families displaced by armed conflict. He promotes, through hip-hop, the recovery of memory, dignity and working with young people to offer them life options, no longer with armed violence still so present in these neighborhoods. “Jei” from Jeison, “hh” from hip-hop, “co” from Colombia. These are the three areas through which the activist Jeison Castaño has built his artistic identity. Born in the “Comuna 13” in Medellín, Jeihhco lived the childhood and adolescence in a territory where the street was the center of life, but also, occasionally, the battlefield of the Colombian armed conflict. He met hip-hop in 1996 when he was 11 years old, but it was not until 2002 that he realized the transformer potential that had the music that made him vibrate. As he explains, it was then when he moved from “do” hip-hop “to be” hip-hop.

He sees the art and culture as purposes in themselves, but also as tools that cannot break away from work and social transformation. Her career clearly reflects this philosophy. He has participated in the design and implementation of numerous projects, including the hip-hop network “La Élite”, the “Revolución sin muertos” festival and, more recently, the “Casa Kolacho”. At present, he is a cultural manager in the “Comuna 13” and joins the rap group C15. Jeihhco usually uses words that may seem over-used, as “peace” or “love.” It does it not complexed and he is convinced that they are the key to build the future. In one arm, he has tattooed the word “passion”. In the other, the profile of his house: the “Comuna 13”.

Interview with Jeison Castaño “Jeihhco”

What does “hip-hop” mean in Comuna 13 of Medellin?

Hip-hop has become the guiding axis of youth identity and expression. Every day, more children and young people are involved in this movement; more spaces for training have even been created. Hip-hop promotes associative processes that have in common a certain non-conformity with war and armed conflict, and thus favors the formation of groups and organizations that are involved in social transformation. The hip-hop of Comuna 13 had never had such strength and projection. It appears in press releases and television programs, the songs are heard on the radio and the videos register thousands of views on social networks. The streets of
our neighborhoods show more than 150 graffiti. We have organized dance groups and one of the largest hip-hop schools in the country, which works actively in training young people. Currently, the hip-hop of Comuna 13 has become a reference in Colombia, thanks to its artistic quality, the ability to manage public stages and the impetus and consolidation of the Revolución Sin Muertos festival.

What prompted you to commit to peace and social transformation?

Knowing the origins of hip-hop and its history as a movement. Knowing what had been done in other places in the world made me think that it could also be achieved in our territory.

What are the main difficulties you have encountered in your commitment to hip-hop?

As an artist, in the first place, no one believed that this was a life choice through which I could develop a career, not even my family. As a manager, the fact that I was young meant that other professionals who had been working for years also did not believe in me or support me. They excluded me, and saw me only as someone who would one day have ideas; as a future, not as a present. Regarding the social sphere, the context of our neighborhoods has been complex in many ways. On the one hand, we find ourselves with a lack of financial resources when it comes to realizing our dreams. On the other hand, violence has also affected the work we do in many ways. They have killed some friends, displaced others. Sometimes, we have not been able to carry out our activities for security reasons.

What is the situation of Comuna 13 at the moment?

The Comuna is living a very special moment. Its artistic groups have more and more visibility. Social processes are powerful, and work is being done to strengthen the social fabric of the neighbourhoods. In recent years, moreover, the municipal government has made extensive investment in urban infrastructure (libraries, the Metrocable, electric stairs, tracks, schools, etc.). However, from my point of view, this investment has been disorganized and has failed to address the structural problems that our communities are experiencing. The historical inequality we suffer from has not been attacked. There has also been a high investment in security. For a long time, we were the most militarized urban territory in Latin America and, even so, we remained the most violent comuna in the city. Today, the streets of our neighborhoods are also patrolled by police and military, but in the alleys and corners there are criminal gangs that exercise real and permanent territorial control; they extort, kill and create fear, almost in front of the State and its forces.

On your Facebook page, the group asked the following question: “If you could go anywhere, where would you go?”. We return the question to you.

If you ask me for a place, I would say New York; South Bronx to be exact. But if I can give a more utopian answer, I would like to travel back in time: to May 31, 1989, at the El Campín stadium in Bogota. The Copa Libertadores final was played there between Nacional, from Medellin, and Olimpia, from Paraguay.

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