Home Institution

Rice University

Publication Date

Spring 2014

Program Name

Argentina: Social Movements and Human Rights


Music is something that has a power all its own. It has the power to join people together, to empower protests, to inspire creativity and enhance learning. Countless studies have been conducted proving the intellectual and emotional benefits of music in the lives of children, and I have experienced this myself in my own life and in my volunteer work in the United States and in Bolivia. This investigation seeks to analyze the combined power of music and education in vulnerable populations, specifically a neighborhood in Buenos Aires called Villa 21/24. The people who live in this Villa are faced with a multitude of challenges including drugs, violence, and unemployment. They are especially in need of activities and educational opportunities for their statistically young population. In this context, el Espacio Creativo Musical Orilleros began for these children, to try to fill the gaps created by economic poverty. After learning about the popular education movement of Argentina and after observing some of the classes at Orilleros, my principal investigation question was: What is the role of music education in the development of agency for the older students who participate in Orilleros in the Villa 21/24?

In my investigation, I was given the opportunity to work closely with many aspects of Orilleros. I observed music workshops, joined them on an excursion to the theatre, and witnessed the coming together of the community in a party-fundraiser aimed to give an opportunity to the children to show off their talent while also raising money for Orilleros. Through volunteering at Orilleros, I built friendships and started a singing seminar. And of course, I conducted interviews with Maka, one of the main professors, and with a few of the older students who help teach classes as well. What I discovered was that the development of agency for these older students was not something that manifested itself in their own elaborate life histories. Or, for the very least, this was not their priority. Rather, the music education in Orilleros with the ideology of the popular education movement, and specifically the role as teachers for the younger students, has given these older students the agency to provide agency to others. Rather than the individualistic focus that I was originally aiming at in my research question, what I found was an extremely communal development of agency. I think it is this extremely community based quality of Orilleros, the fact that it was born of the community and continues to be strengthened by the community, that makes it such a unique and truly inspiring organization and one that will surely change the lives of these children and this community for the better.


Anthropology | Family, Life Course, and Society | Inequality and Stratification | Music | Social and Cultural Anthropology


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