The first time I was in Bogota, I went to Rock al Parque, which is one of the biggest music festivals in Latin America and the world. Luckily, I was also in town for Hip Hop al Parque this weekend, which is smaller but still had about 75,000 people attending over the weekend.
The security at these events is seriously intense. The first night, one friend of mine wasn’t allowed to wear his belt, and another friend couldn’t bring her water bottle in, even though it passed the smell test. While I was getting fondled by a female police officer, I asked her which entrance we were at so I could give someone else directions. Upon identifying my foreign accent, instead of giving me directions, she called over a higher-ranking official who spoke a few words of English. I asked him for directions in Spanish and he answered me, “You are welcome,” in English. So I guess he doesn’t speak Spanish or English? He then took it upon himself to call over another group of police who threw out a few more random English words. Thanks for the help, guys. The second night, while I was being fondled by a different policewoman, she asked me if I was from Brazil. I told her I was from the US, and she replied, “Ahh. Gringuita.”
The highlight of Saturday’s show was Los Aldeanos from Cuba, whose songs were laced with strong political messages against Cuba and politicians in general, referring to them as liars and manipulators, no matter if they represent a socialist government or a capitalist one.
Before they went on, there was a local hip hop group that started rapping about not smoking weed. Then someone asked the crowd to stop smoking, which caused a stampede. No, I’m not exaggerating. My heart filled with terror as thousands of people started running towards me. At first, I pictured a gunman in the middle of the crowd shooting AK-47s at the audience, causing everyone to run for their lives. But no. Some people opposed the non-smoking message and decided to stampede it. WTF?! I wish I could say that was the only stampede action I experienced that weekend, but Sunday night I was also forced to run for my life a second time. Cause of second stampede: unknown.
Sunday night I went to go see Naughty by Nature. For those of you who aren’t hip-hop literate, Naughty by Nature is an old-school classic rap group that won a Grammy in 1996 for Best Rap Album. They’re famous for songs like Hip Hop Hooray and O.P.P. They put on a surprisingly awesome show, and when they screamed, “You down with OPP?” I yelled back, “Yeah you know me!” I was apparently the only one nearby that knew the lyrics, and my excited response attracted the curious stares of everyone within earshot. Oops – I never thought I could be so loud in a crowd of thousands.
To my delight, the DJ spun a selection of other classics, like Lodi Dodi, Gin and Juice, and Hail Mary. At this time, I had lost my inhibition and was screaming out, “And they aint leavin till 6 in the mo’nin,” and, “What do we have here now, do you wanna ride or die.” I felt the respect emanating from my fellow concert goers for knowing the lyrics to these English rap songs. That’s what’s up.