Date of Graduation

Fall 12-27-2013

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts in International Studies


International Studies

First Advisor

Dorothy Kidd


This study explores the ways in which the Hip-hop movement is producing social change in Medellín, Colombia. Looking specifically at a Hip-hop school called Cuatro Elementos Skuela, which exists autonomously and with very little state support in the Medellín neighborhood of Aranjuez, I argue that young people are contributing to the reconstruction of the city’s social, cultural and economic fabric. I start by explaining the historical context of Medellín, describing the different sets of conflicts that unleashed high levels of violence and caused the fragmentation of the social, cultural and economic fabric. Moreover, I review the role of the government and its advances in cultural policy, identifying some gaps in state action. The study then presents a brief history of the Hip-hop movement, and its transformative elements. It compares the context of Medellín in the 1990’s with the Hip-hop movement in the South Bronx of New York in the 1970s, showing similarities in the conditions faced by urban youth. Finally, through different theories of social change, including theories about identity and culture, participatory communications and art, and culture and peace-making, the study shows how a group of young people are supporting themselves with creativity and entrepreneurial spirit, offering other young boys and girls in marginalized neighborhoods an alternative and healthy way to spend their free time and to acquire skills to become professional street artists; and helping to restore the city’s social fabric by offering cultural and meeting spaces to the community.