Hip-hop artist Olmeca gives voice to the changing face of America with an uplifting celebration of the Latino community.
Los Angeles-based Tepehuane emcee Olmeca is a deft lyricist and a dedicated activist. He’s been a longtime advocate for Latin@ rights and his latest single “Browning of America” speaks directly to the rise of the [email protected] in the U.S., the struggles of undocumented workers against deportation, and the fight for immigrant rights. “The revolution will not be televised”, he raps, “we’re marching in.”
We caught up with him to talk about the song, the struggle, and what we can learn from the Zapatistas.
What Indigenous nation and community do you represent?
I represent the Indigenous diaspora from Mexico. My mother is Tepehuane from the state of Durango, but lost her roots during forced migration within Mexico.
How does your indigeneity figure in your art and music?
The idea of identity in the United States is crucial in the survival of a people. The colors, the vibrancy of culture, the food, the music and our cultural understanding of the world through indigeneity are very much present in my music.
Can you tell us a bit about the song “Browning of America” and the movement you’re speaking to with it?
“Browning of America” is about the undeniable fact that the U.S. is becoming more “brown” or “latin@”. The demographics are changing and with it its culture. There is a part of the immigrant rights movement that inspires me. One that is fearless and is led by the undocumented “other”. The women, the queer community, the youth and those who are most marginalized. I try to respond to that bravery with this song by placing the facts that are often hidden from mainstream media.
You produced the video in collaboration with the National Day Laborer Organizing Network (NDLON) and PUENTE Vision. How did you link up with them?
I’ve been working with NDLON for years now. I’ve been working with PUENTE the longest. Both organizations have been on the front lines and I’m honored to be on their scope given the tremendous amount of work they have been doing.
We heard you got up with the Zapatistas and have been a longtime supporter of their movement. What do you think we can learn from them in our movements for liberation here in other parts of Turtle Island?
I first visited Zapatista communities in 2001. That movement is one that looks at the political reality through Indigenous principles. It allows for culture to take its proper place and focuses on justice beyond the economic. This means that the poor and rich dichotomy is only part of the struggle, but humanity, is holistic and that is what I feel they truly represent… that is… a movement for humanity where ‘a world where many worlds fit’ and one where we are constantly looking at our privileges to ensure the dignity of those around us.
What’s next for you? Any new releases planned for 2015?
I am in production mode and working with Dos Santos from Chicago and Principe Cu from Texas for production. In the meantime, we will be releasing more videos via my website www.olmeca.us.