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The life of the Aymara hip-hop artist Abraham Bojórquez was cut off tragically in a traffc accident in El Alto in 2009, when he was twenty-six. Born in El Alto, he migrated to Brazil alone when he was twelve and worked in textile workshops and other informal jobs in São Paulo. There he learned to rap in shantytowns and brought the musical style back to El Alto in 2002. The popular uprising of October 2003 had a major impact on him, and the propulsive songs of his group Ukamau y ké (in Aymara and Spanish: That’s How It Is and What of It?) contain a scathing critique of social injustice and an affrmation of indigenous identity. He once declared, “I’m a modern Aymara—you can be modern and still stay true to your roots.”

In the lyrics below, the Aymara term thaya means “cold,” but a strong, energizing, generative cold, as in the early morning on the altiplano before the sun rises. In ancient Andean mythology, the cold is associated with the virile, creative, and conquering powers of the highlands, while heat is associated with the feminine, receptive, and domesticating powers of the lowlands. Thus, an ancestral symbol surfaces unexpectedly in this contemporary anthem of youth protest.

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