Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name





Peter Manuel

Committee Members

Héctor Fernández L’Hoeste

Jane Sugarman

Patricia Tovar

Subject Categories

Ethnomusicology | Latin American Studies | Political History


protest music, resistance, guerrillas, violence


Based on archival and ethnographic fieldwork in the cities of Bogotá and Medellín, this dissertation documents the development of canción protesta (protest song) in Colombia in the 1960s, and tracks its evolution in subsequent decades. At the turn of the 1970s, songwriters affiliated with a grassroots canción protesta movement in Bogotá used music as a vehicle for disseminating leftist political ideology and extolling the revolutionary guerrilla groups that had formed in the Colombian countryside in the preceding years. However, canción protesta was an urban phenomenon that emerged in tandem with other countercultural currents, and their confluence in the late 1960s facilitated the rise of a commercial variant of protest song in the 1970s, the reception of which was politically mixed. By the 1980s, many activist-musicians were breaking away from what they viewed as the crudely propagandist song texts of the prior decade. To make sense of protest song’s shifting guises, I situate them in broader discourses of and about resistance, emphasizing the ways in which the resistant dimensions of oppositional music have been discursively articulated in changing political contexts.

During the 1990s, the category of canción social (social song) began to replace the term canción protesta in public discourse. While canción social generally denotes the same music that was formerly labelled as canción protesta, it embraces a wider range of artists and carries different associations. One of the central arguments of the dissertation is that the terminological shift from canción protesta to canción social represents a profound transformation, over the course of five decades of civil conflict, in Colombian society’s relationship with the idea of pursuing political change through armed resistance.