Before there was Brazil and Paraguay, and the border between them, there were the Guaraní. Indigenous people, enslaved by the Spanish invaders and converted by the Jesuits, they spoke a language of nasal harmony and heavy in vowels, which made history as the only native tongue to become the official language of a colonized country.
But while Guaraní, protected by the Jesuits, gained its ground in Paraguay, it had less luck battling the linguistic Portuguese juggernaut in Brazil. The language went the way of the conquistadores, and just a few pockets were able to keep their own dialects alive, if only orally.
In one of those areas, a poor area tucked into the southwestern corner of Brazil, there are four young men doing something previously unheard and unheard of. Two sets of brothers from Jaguapirú Bororó, in the province of Dourados, are rapping in Guaraní. The Bro MCs are reversing the traditional custom of newcomers in a country expressing their marginalized frustrations through hip hop, since their people were on the land before anyone else. They want their language to be heard, and for their people and traditions to have the voice they lost over centuries.
They are getting there. Their first brush with fame was after appearing in an Italian film, and then they made a demo and performed for Brazil’s president. And she was into it, hailing the Bro MCs as a great example of cultural unity. The hip hop quartet flies its linguistic flag while singing the truth about their situation as marginalized citizens in their own country.
Carlos and Kelvin Peixoto and their other half, Bruno and Clemerson Verón, are paying it forward too. While they are performing all over Latin American now, they also run workshops helping other kids in Dourados find their way into music and out of drugs.