La Legua York: Bigger Than Hip Hop

With two members dressed in orange jumpsuits and a third rhyming about the struggles of Latin America, “La Legua York” is by no means a typical Chilean music group. Their songs are a call to Chileans to pay attention and do something, as well as a critique on the state of Latin America.

Santiago Chile
Photo by Carla Pastén

Together since 1997, the group gathers inspiration from everything from Public Enemy to George W. Bush. The old friends Gustavo Luloarias, Ricardo Unoceroro and Cabro Homer compose the hip-hop-Latino-folk trio dubbed “Legua York crew” which has risen to popularity here in Chile and throughout South America.

Santiago Chile
Photo by Carla Pastén

Despite powerful themes such as “love for the poor”, “the tragedy of Chile” and “death of those exiled during Pinochet,” the members of “La Legua York” were in good spirits before, during and after their show. The three men joked and laughed throughout the night, and compared their group to “a family… with solidarity.”

To open, the three men harmonized over beats, using samples and moving in rhythm as they rapped about the pueblos of Chile.

As their set continued, a clarinet and saxophone were introduced. By the middle of the performance, a notable rise in enthusiasm caused crowd members to bob their heads and sing along with passion.

Santiago Chile
Photo by Carla Pastén

Between the rap lyrics, the group members nodded along to a very un-hip-hop-like solo on the saxophone. The group’s big smiles, laughing and joking onstage and genuine joy they received from performing made them come across as truly gracious and extremely likeable. The fans that took photos and sang along grinning were clearly satisfied by the band’s hour-and-a-half-long set.

Besides dealing with Latin American politics in an intelligent and accessible manner, “La Legua York” gives a voice to Chile’s tragic past, from the treatment of the Mapuche natives to the poverty of the pueblos outside of Santiago.

They name “the city, the country, the river, the ocean” as the reasons why they perform. When described as a hip-hop group, vocalist Gustavo Luloarias quickly explains, “We are not hip hop!” The members support this by saying, “[we] listen to enough, listen to the older people, in all places, we listen to everything.” And then they write their songs.

It’s clear by the devotion of their fans and the power behind their lyrics that “La Legua York” is on their way to success, bringing a message of perseverance, respect for the past, and of course a good time.

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