Q&A: Calle 13's Residente and Visitante Leave the Map at Home

Calle 13’s documentary Sin Mapa premieres tonight at the New York International Latino Film Festival. The film follows the Grammy Award–winning duo as they travel across South America in search of indigenous music and culture. I recently spoke to Residente about the experience:

Where did you go for this documentary?
We went to La Rinconada gold mines in Peru. Tourists don’t go there because it’s not a nice place. We went to Macchu Pichu, Colombia’s Sierra Nevada. We went to some dangerous places. Spots where you need permission to penetrate. We were there without a crew. We enlisted a friend that does documentaries. That was the great thing. The documentary is simple; it was born out of a desire to learn.

What was your favorite place?
I loved everything. I liked Palenque, Lake Titicaca. Every place is special. I didn’t like La Rinconada. It’s 20,000 feet above sea level and you can barely breathe up there. It takes nine hours to go up on a bus full of chickens and animals. But it was an accomplishment to have made it there.  

What did you learn?
I understood how much the indigenous love the earth. That kind of love for nature is rare. It’s sacred, like the love of mothers or fathers toward their children.

What was the weirdest experience?

One time we went into a river only to find out later that it was full of piranhas.

Did anyone recognize you?
In some places. I would walk around with a shirt, beard and my hair a bit longer. When we got to Macau on the border of Colombia and Ecuador—a place where no one goes—I was eating somewhere and a bunch of folks came to take my photo because they couldn’t believe Calle 13 was there. Sometimes the indigenous kids would recognize me.