Amid chaos of Venezuela street demos, a lone violinist plays
As tear gas chokes the air and water cannons gush in the streets, a skinny young man wearing the red, blue and yellow of Venezuela’s flag stands bravely amid the chaos and plays the violin. That is 23-year-old Wuilly Arteaga doing his bit-contributing music to the nearly daily street rallies rocking the country as the opposition tries to force President Nicolas Maduro from power. Arteaga, who was badly injured in the face Saturday at a demonstration, has become a sort of fixture at the rallies-a powerful symbol of everyday people’s anger with a leader they blame for a severe economic crisis.
As bedlam erupts around him, Arteaga stands and plays the national anthem or traditional Venezuelan music. Big time performers abroad like pop star Shakira have taken notice and expressed support for Arteaga. On Saturday, Arteaga was seen with blood pouring from cuts on the left side of his face. He said later he had been struck with buckshot. “They are not going to frighten me,” Arteaga said in a video he posted on Twitter from a hospital bed, with big swollen lips and bandages on his face. “We are going to keep fighting.” Then he picked up his violin and played a little. On social media, people went nuts with praise for him.
‘I know I am nobody’
The musician became an icon of the protest movement on May 8 when he was pictured calmly weaving through tear gas with his violin on his shoulder, playing a classic Venezuelan folk song called “Alma Llanera.” Immortalized in photographs from that performance, he said he meant it as a message of peace. Arteaga learned to play with an award-winning Venezuelan network of youth orchestras created for kids from underprivileged areas. Arteaga shot to fame when he performed at the funeral of an 18-year-old musician, Armando Canizales, who died of a gunshot wound May 3 at a protest rally in Caracas.
Handout picture released by Robert Carmona-Borjas showing Venezuelan violinist Wuilly Arteaga, who gained fame for playing at many of Venezuela’s opposition marches, lying in a hospital bed in Caracas after he was injured during a protest.