The Soundtrack to Venezuela’s Student Protests
Friday, February 28, 2014
The student protests in Venezuela have turned violent in recent weeks. According to reports from inside the country, over a dozen protesters have died in clashes with the government and paramilitary groups. Amidst the turmoil, the music of the Venezuelan rock band La Vida Boheme has surged in popularity, becoming the unofficial soundtrack to the student’s cause.
The band’s Grammy Award-winning album Será came out just weeks after the death of former president Hugo Chávez. Its songs search for hope in a country plagued with soaring murder rates, crippling inflation, and scarcity of essential goods — conditions exacerbated by the current clashes. “It was in all of our heads, being young people here in the country,” lead singer and songwriter Henry D’Arthenay tells Kurt Andersen, from his home in Caracas.
D’Arthenay says the protests are the outcome of a long-festering fear and distrust of the government of Chávez and his successor, Nicolás Maduro. “Even if you’re not involved politically, your life is in jeopardy,” he tells Kurt. “I’ve been politically active since I started writing music because I always thought it was a responsibility.” Young Venezuelans have been sharing La Vida Boheme’s lyrics on social media, especially the anthemic “Aún” (“Still”):
Ya cansadas mis piernas de tanto caminar
He dejado la sierra para no volver más
Las rodillas me tiemblan pero no puedo parar
Quiero que mis hijos tengan lo que a mí me quisieron quitar
Now my legs are tired from walking
I have left the mountains to never return again
My knees are trembling but I cannot stop
I want my children to have what they took from me
Like many in Caracas, D’Arthenay is staying in his house as much as possible because of the violence and chaos in the streets. He has been voicing his opposition to the government’s violence against protesters on Twitter, and trying to find a reason for hope. “I do believe that this will come to a positive, non-violent outcome,” he tells Kurt. “We have to build a country where each and everyone has a chance to realize themselves as human beings.”
Video: La Vida Boheme, "Aún"
Video: La Vida Boheme, "Cementerio del Este // Cementerio del Sur"