Beyond the Pink Tide: Art and Political Undercurrents in the Americas

Beyond the Pink Tide: Art and Political Undercurrents in the Americas

by Macarena Gomez-Barris

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How can we create a model of politics that reaches beyond the nation-state, and beyond settler-colonialism, authoritarianism, and neoliberalism? In Beyond the Pink Tide, Macarena Gómez-Barris explores the alternatives of recent sonic, artistic, activist, visual, and embodied cultural production. By focusing on radical spaces of potential, including queer, youth, trans-feminist, Indigenous, and anticapitalist movements and artistic praxis, Gómez-Barris offers a timely call for a decolonial, transnational American Studies. She reveals the broad possibilities that emerge by refusing national borders in the Americas and by seeing and thinking beyond the frame of state-centered politics. Concrete social justice and transformation begin at the level of artistic, affective, and submerged political imaginaries—in Latin America and the United States, across South-South solidarities, and beyond.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780520296671
Publisher: University of California Press
Publication date: 08/28/2018
Series: American Studies Now: Critical Histories of the Present , #7
Edition description: First Edition
Pages: 160
Sales rank: 968,319
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.10(h) x 0.50(d)

About the Author

Macarena Gómez-Barris is Chairperson of Social Science and Cultural Studies at Pratt Institute, Director of the Global South Center, and author of Where Memory Dwells: Culture and State Violence in Chile and The Extractive Zone: Social Ecologies and Decolonial Perspectives

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Sounds Radical

Ana Tijoux, Student Protests, and Palestinian Solidarity


In 2011, the Chilean mestiza singer and rapper Ana Tijoux became the sound of the student movement that reverberated throughout South America and beyond. Her song "Shock" gave a sound track to the massive student marches and collective street performances in which hundreds of thousands of students demanded a free education from then President Michelle Bachelet's government. With rising tuition costs, students protested the ransom on their future: in class-stratified Chile, debt had made it untenable to access higher education and the elusive dream of upward mobility.

Tijoux wrote the lyrics to the song after reading Naomi Klein's The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism. In it, the author describes how "shock doctor" economists remade the world in their own image, disciplining the global economy through austerity policies that were implemented by military dictatorships. Chile was one key epicenter of the shock doctrine. On September 11, 1973, Augusto Pinochet overthrew Salvador Allende's Socialist government in a bloody coup supported by then US President Richard Nixon and the CIA. As I have written elsewhere, the Pinochet regime (1973–89) used torture, disappearance, and exile against tens of thousands of those it deemed subversive to enable the Chicago Boys' application of US economist Milton Friedman's neoliberal experiment. As a precursor to counterinsurgency and the neoliberal turn that would take place throughout South America, Central America, Asia, and Africa, Chile became the testing ground for economic shock therapy. Using the rhetoric of a "doctrine of security," military dictatorships turned against their own citizens, restructuring the global economy in part upon the broken and disappeared bodies of social activists.

Ana Tijoux's song "Shock" references this history, noting how global marketization was literally built on the murder and pain of Socialists and Indigenous activists. The lyrics tell the story of a nation traumatized by a brutal authoritarian regime who left debt, deepening social resentments, and resource theft in its wake:

The poison of your colorless discourses Don't you see that we aren't alone?
The lines "Your rotten thrones of gold, your rich man's politics," and "Bellies fat, powerful decisions made by so few" are a powerful reference to the increasing concentration of wealth that expanded social and economic inequality over the past forty years, notable in university tuition hikes at public institutions. Students were moved by Tijoux's refrain, "No permiteremos más, más tu doctrina del shock," or "We will not permit any more of your doctrine of shock," reflecting student demand for a society not organized by insatiable greed and the social control mechanism of police and military violence.

In a nation where economic and political power remained in the hands of dominant elites, Tijoux's song "Shock" resonated with working-class and working poor youth, who increasingly saw their futures ransomed by an economic model that catered to corporations, wealthy ministers, and foreign bankers. Fed up with state-led marketization and empty promises, students demanded alternatives to the consumer-oriented society that had impoverished education and public health systems while weakening the texture of social relations. Against the hypocrisy of the education system that hid the history of authoritarian violence, they demanded a fuller account of neoliberalism than the whitewashed triumphant narratives of the Chicago Boys and their technocratic masculinity that had been ubiquitous in their textbooks.

For a generation searching for new modes of living and imagining their own futures, Tijoux's song became an anthem of political accountability and social transformation. As I discuss in the chapter, despite the economic system that had produced social crisis, through music, solidarity, social movements, and performances, young people instead forged deep connections to histories of diaspora, to each other and across the Global South, working to create a different, less market-oriented imaginary of a future society.


On the album of the same title, the rap song "1977" refers to the year Tijoux was born. It makes several references to the utopic potential of the Socialist Allende period by repeating, "mil novicientos setenta, che," or 1970, the year Salvador Allende was voted into power for a short-lived Socialist experiment that ignited the global imagination. By 1973, the conservative Right had pushed back against Allende's nationalist platform, rolling back an economic agenda that had nationalized copper and the telecommunications industry while also expropriating the land of agrarian workers. The political violence that accompanied economic restructuring and that engulfed the nation was aimed at Allende supporters and in addition to mass murder and imprisonment led to the expulsion of one million Chileans, who were scattered between England, France, Spain, Australia, Canada, the United States, Venezuela, Cuba, and other nations around the world.

Born in exile in France, Tijoux returned with her family to Chile as an adolescent, forming part of the retornados, a multigenerational group that comprised about 260,000 people in a nation of 16 million. As Loreta Rebolledo's research emphasizes, returning to an unknown nation during the 1980s and 1990s was confusing for the daughters and sons of exiles. For this generation, return had meant an extraordinary effort to access a nation that was wholly unfamiliar and had only been experienced and mediated through the traumas of their parents. In addition to a general feeling of estrangement, this generation found themselves in a militarized nation that had been wrought by the aftermath of the 1981 economic crisis. In the aftermath of the 1990 democratic transition, thousands of exiles returned to a vastly transformed country whose democracy and natural resources had been destroyed by shock capitalism. For Tijoux, this meant going to a nation that was foreign to her, mediated through the political perspectives of her mother's generation.

In fact, Ana Tijoux's mother, María Emilia Tijoux, was a formidable influence. A sociologist whose work on race and immigration is well known in Latin America and whose scholarship focuses on South-South migrations, María Emilia Tijoux has written extensively on social exclusion and the impact of poverty on street children in postindustrial geographies such as Santiago. Though Ana Tijoux defined her own perspectives on social, racial, and economic justice in her music and public interviews, marked by her own trajectory as an immigrant/exile, it is clear that her political economic analysis was also informed by her mother's attunement to social injustice.

Ana Tijoux's musicality was also influenced by her experience in exile, where rap created an important vehicle for expressing social discontent within a changing racially diverse environment. Rap's early development in Black New York City, and the deep imprint of Caribbean culture on the music, especially from Jamaica and Puerto Rico, also offered a way to make connections across transnational spaces and migrant experiences. US popular music circulated in Europe and the Global South, expressing urban discontent as its central theme in the aftermath of 1970s global economic restructuring.

Embedded in a genre of socially conscious rap, Tijoux's music bears the trace of the Afro-diaspora as influenced by her formative experiences first in France and then in Chile. In Tijoux's hybridized music, one can hear the influences of jazz and Andean sounds, even as it comes from the African disapora, as the music that traveled with her from France to Chile and then found an enlivened and nascent community in Santiago. For Tijoux, transculturated music meant connecting to what she has called "creative chaos," a musical mix of genres that breaks the boundaries of fixed identities, nations, and geographies.

A new influx of migrants from Cuba and Peru sought opportunities from "Chile's economic miracle" and was part of the creative mix of Afro-diasporic populations engaging and expanding the experimentation with music in the nation. Though the Afro-descended population in Santiago was small, with a more sizable historical presence in northern Chile, it found forceful expression in the emergence of rap in the urban peripheries. An important venue for addressing systemic inequality such as racism, sexism, and classism, rap also often made consumerism and the cheapening of economic and social and political life central to its themes, resonating powerfully with Chilean youth's experience in the mushrooming peripheral communities of Santiago.

Tijoux's music was enlivened by the vibrancy of an urban music scene that was surprising for its heterogeneity and strength. Groups such as Tiro de Gracia, Panteras Negras, Rezonancia, De Kiruza, La Pozze Latina, and La Frecuencia and Mamma Soul, which featured Moyenei Valdés as lyricist, contributed to a rap and beat box scene that spread and gave voice to the experiences of living in precarious neighborhoods. As a counterpoint to the culture of fear of the dictatorship and the isolation of the early transition to democracy period, breakdance and b-boys could now be found on many street corners. Music and dance provided the backdrop for public gatherings, and working-class and mixed-race young people and immigrant communities used rap's ability to sound their discontent and frustration with what they saw as a corrupt social and political order.

Let me elaborate how I see the points of convergence within these very distinct histories. Tijoux's music connected to a history of global resistance that had a very specific origin point in US Black and Caribbean diasporic communities of struggle. Scholars have described how rap, which began in the Bronx, New York, and Kingston, Jamaica, defined the period after the civil rights movement for US urban centers and Black and Afro-diasporic youth in the aftermath of deindustrialization. In the post-neoliberal Global South, Black diasporic sounds allowed for an articulation of the despair over globalization that brought a dearth of working-class jobs. Though Chile was far from the United States geographically, it had been subject to the same kinds of development discourses that US communities of color endured.

For instance, New York government officials were quick to represent peripheral city spaces as Third World wastelands. In particular, the Bronx as one key center of rap and hip-hop was also constructed as a Global South space. As Jeff Chang states:

Here was the unreconstructed South — the South Bronx, a spectacular set of ruins, a mythical wasteland, an infectious disease, and, as Robert Jensen observed, "a condition of poverty and social collapse, more than a geographical place." Through the 1960s, the Bronx's prefix was merely descriptive of the borough's southernmost neighborhoods, like Mott Haven and Longwood. But now most of New York City north of 110th Street was reimagined as a new kind of 'South,' a global south just a subway-ride away. Even Mother Teresa, patron saint of the world's poor, made an unannounced pilgrimage.

Even though Chang's quote references how politicians represented the Bronx as a "Third World" space, urban areas such as this shared central features as a meeting place for new arrivals, cultural creativity, and rap sound that became part of a global musical wave. What cities from throughout the Global South shared, including the Bronx, were processes of deindustrialization, white flight, and the dramatic effects of suburbanization.

During the 1980s and 1990s, the expansion of Santiago followed a similar pattern of social and economic division. The Chilean government focused on financing public works that benefited the wealthy, such as the Río Mapocho highway that connected the downtown to the upper-class neighborhoods, which increased physical and infrastructural separation that translated into fewer opportunities for working-class people. Observing this race/class divide during early morning work hours dramatizes the geophysical divide of the city: white financial workers from the upper barrio travel down to the downtown center, a few hours after working-class Indigenous and mestiza/o service workers, such as nannies and gardeners, take public transportation up to the upper barrios to care for wealthy people's homes and children at the edges of the Andean cordillera.

Ana Tijoux witnessed the racism and classism that was also prevalent in France, and it proved to have a lasting impact on her music and collaborations. She grew up listening to rap, where what she calls "verbal flow" circulated widely among the youth in the African- and Arab-descended mix of immigrant communities that bordered Paris. The powerful blend that global rap absorbed, and its ability to be a vehicle of sound, offered Tijoux a way to speak truth to power, resonating with her exilic experiences, her experience of return, and the social consciousness that was the inheritance from her mother. The exposure to exilic culture and its intellectual and political commitments also provided Ana Tijoux with creative material. In 1997, with other members she formed the group Makiza, whose name came from the French word maquisard, or resistance to the Nazi Occupation, and whose lyrics were antiauthoritarian and antimilitary.

Finally, though I have addressed the multiple influences on Tijoux's oeuvre and musicality, in interviews Tijoux also speaks about the profound impact that the singer and poet Victor Jara had on her music, thinking, and musical praxis. Of the diverse musical scene in Santiago she says, "There can be metal musicians, jazz folkloric,rapperos, it doesn't matter. Victor Jara is the one who unites them all. He had a special capacity to reach across lines and go directly to the heart." If Victor Jara's songs are often associated with protest movements of the 1970s, or what is often called the New Song Movement, then Tijoux would influence and respond to the next generation through her word flow. In her return to Chile from exile, and as innovator at the edge of a transformative tide, Ana Tijoux's music became the sound of and a touchstone for new forms of social dissent.


Since at least the 1960s, music and performance were critical platforms that enlivened the messages of social movements throughout the Américas, producing new imaginaries of ways to live and dance. For Global South millenials, flash mobs, global hip-hop, and group choreographies offered critical modes through which to express the desire for social transformation. From Spain to Turkey to the United States and, of course, in Chile, students marched against the zombie capitalism that attempted to convert them into the living dead. For instance, in 2011, hundreds of university students choreographed a street performance to Michael Jackson's Thriller,dramatizing how consumer debt and rising tuitions had turned them into zombies of the market system. Wearing graveyard costumes and doing monster choreography en masse in front of the large, public University of Chile, they made the deadening effect of the debt economy visible on the national stage. This focus on body politics throughout the Americas allows us to reveal the gaps between dominant ideologies and on-the-ground desires and modes of resisting that are essential to new political imaginaries. Music and performances pulsated as new models for expressing social and economic solidarity and discontent, critiquing the deadening logics of consumerism and the importation of "the American way of life."

If Michael Jackson's Thriller video choreographed the student movement, then Ana Tijoux's song "La Bala" gave it its anthem. The song was inspired by transversal social movements, referring not to a single issue protest but a multidirectional and cross-directional broader call for social change. "This new generation of students has been a bucket of cold water, a giant slap in the face for all of us. It's a huge lesson about the ability to unite, and fight over something as basic as the right to study," Tijoux said. As her own rise to global recognition demonstrated, "The marches have been a high point for the gathering of otherwise invisible artists."


Excerpted from "Beyond the Pink Tide"
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Copyright © 2018 Macarena Gómez-Barris.
Excerpted by permission of UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA PRESS.
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Table of Contents

Overview ix

Preface xi

Introduction 1
Beyond the Pink Tide

1. Sounds Radical 22
Ana Tijoux, Student Protests, and Palestinian Solidarity

2. How Cuir Is Queer Recognition? 46
A Manifesto from the Sexual Underground

3. Art in the Shadow of Border Capitalism 68
Migration, Militarism, and Trans-Feminist Critique

4. An Archive of Starlight 88
Remapping Patagonia through Indigenous Memories

Conclusion 107
Rogue Waves

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