Venezuelan artists marched on Friday to commemorate popular singer and songwrite Ali Primera, as well as to reject the ongoing US-backed attempted coup.
The yearly “March of the Carnations” took place under the inescapable shadow of current events. Self-proclaimed “interim president” Juan Guaido and the US government have made repeated calls for the Venezuelan armed forces to support a so-called “transition”. Likewise, the spectre of a foreign invasion looms large over the country, with both Guaido and US officials refusing to rule it out and tensions building across the border over humanitarian aid.
“Art can play a crucial role in connecting the people and in this context speak to the dangers we currently face of a coup or foreign intervention,” singer and songwriter Ariana Moreno from Surconciente told Venezuelanalysis. “Artists need to unite and take to the streets with a message of patriotism, humanism, socialism, and peace,” she added.
Sandino Primera, one of the sons of Ali Primera, explained that there is an artistic sector that is fully conscious of its role in pursuing a cultural revolution as well as the need to mobilize in current circumstances.
“The opposition has always looked for a coup, ever since 2002, since they called Chavez a dictator and never accepted electoral defeats,” Primera explained. “The difference is that their efforts have acquired a new level of intensity,” he added, while arguing that he does not see a foreign intervention as a likely scenario.
Ali Primera, a communist who passed away in 1985, is a significant figure in Venezuelan culture, with his songs becoming hymns of resistance against the neoliberal offensive of the 1980s and 1990s, before being embraced by the Bolivarian Revolution. Also ever present in both the man and his artistic works is an anti-imperialist message, none more so than in his song “America Latina Obrera” (“Worker Latin America”) which contains the slogan “Yankee Go Home.”
“Ali Primera is sorely missed as someone who identified with the people’s struggles and sang about them,” Moreno explained. “But nowadays we have many singers who look to him as a guide and try to fulfill this role,” she concluded.
For his part, Sandino Primera stressed that remembering Ali Primera was not a matter of nostalgia. “His message is not anachronistic, it has a lot of sense still in today’s conditions and it’s coherent,” he said. “Ali remains at the vanguard of this movement for (cultural) independence that is a part of the struggle,” he went on to add.
The march started at Ali Primera square in Caracas, made a quick stop at the anti-imperialist stage in Plaza Bolivar, before finishing at the National Pantheon. Artist and non-artists alike sang Primera’s songs all the way, with an overarching theme: Yankee Go Home!