In Ecatepec, a suburb of Mexico’s capital, an average of more than one woman per day is killed. It is home to so many kidnappings and attacks that it has earned the reputation of “Mexico’s capital of violence against women.”
It’s become a dangerous, terrifying place for people, especially females, to live. But for three young women living there, hope has been found in a shared passion—hip hop.
Luz Reality, Alix Toxik and Maya La Insana are a hip hop trio dedicated to combating the disturbing trend of violence against women through music. Their lyrics portray themes of fighting against oppression and standing in solidarity with other women, as seen by the chorus of one song: “I still help my girls in the street; I still help my girls on the stage!” and few lines from a verse from another: “I don’t deal with fiction, just the truth. We listen and we stay quiet. It’s better to run your mouth …Where are the people who want to criticize me? [The people] who want to finish me off?”
Music may give the women temporary solace, but reality is grim. The US Chamber of Commerce in Mexico ranks Ecatepec as the second most challenging security environment for businesses in the country, trailing only Reynosa, Tamaulipas—the border city that serves as home base for the drug cartel.
Between 2005 and 2015, at least 3,604 women were killed in the state of Mexico, where Ecatepec is located. In the past few decades, Mexico City has seen an increase in real-estate investments and has enjoyed higher levels of safety, but for the surrounding suburbs, things haven’t gotten much better.
“Now in the parks there are drug addicts, robberies. Most people go to Mexico City to work; they don’t work here,” Luz says. “Even though there are malls now, they don’t help. It’s ugly and violent, and is no place to raise kids.
“I was proud of Ecatepec. [But now,] if I had the chance to leave, I would. I don’t see a future here.”
For now, the group continues to perform concerts and record new music and videos. They’re doing hip hop the way it was meant to be done—to unveil the struggles of daily life that might otherwise go unheard of, and to advocate for change.
Luz’s attitude is summarized in one of her new songs, I’m Still On My Feet. Over a bass-heavy beat she raps: “After everything I’ve been through, I’m still on my feet. I don’t let myself get beaten.”
That’s the kind of message hip hop artists should be spreading. Though a simple art form, hip hop possesses capacity for great influence. It can inspire struggling people to endure another day and strive to change their condition, or can lead them down a path of self-destruction. Hip hop artists need to see themselves as more than just musicians. They are powerful influencers in their society with the ability to spread hope and bring change.