In the Venezuelan Llanos Music Delivers a Message: ‘No Mining Near Our Productive Lands’

Musicians call to end a mining project near agrarian lands in Lara State.

On May 21, musician Sandino Primera, joined by his band and singer Amaranta Perez, gathered in the main square of Sarare in Lara State, a beautiful town that is a local farming center. Corn, sugar cane, plantains, and beans grow in the flatlands nearby; coffee in the lush hills behind the city.

Sarare is also known for El Maizal, an emblematic rural commune where corn is produced in large quantities, but also cattle for both for meat and milk, and pigs. Communal production there is based on social property, and the democratic processes at the core of such initiatives include collective decision-making in the working process and in the distribution of the surplus, which is often destined towards addressing medical problems in the community, supporting other communes, and fostering educational initiatives for local youth.

What brought Sandino Primera to Sarare is a recent struggle that has mobilized much of the Chavista left in Venezuela. A few months ago, a mining outfit began to violently displace local residents and campesinos in order to build infrastructure in and around Cerro La Vieja, a natural preserve near Sarare that is key to the region’s whole ecosystem and to making the surrounding lands tremendously fertile.

Sandino Primera, the son of the great Venezuelan singer and songwriter Ali Primera and a musician in his own right, is currently on tour around the country with his latest musical production, “La Alborada” (dawn). It is a creative presentation that joins performative elements – Primera enters the stage with a rooster mask – with melodies and lyrics that support the struggles of the Venezuelan people. “La Alborada,” in Primera’s own voice, refers to the moment in which “the rays of the sun come in touch with this world and we begin to see the shit that surrounds us.” He is not, however, a pessimist.

His concert at Sarare, the twenty-sixth stop in a tour begun last October, was in solidarity with the people of Sarare and neighboring towns, and an expression of the affinity between leftist musicians and the deeply Chavista people of the region.

About the initiative, Primera said: “We came here to make our voice and our music heard, because we don’t want our campesino brothers and sisters to face injustices, and because the wound inflicted to the Cerro La Vieja cannot be silenced.”

The concert attracted locals who listened and sang along with “Merece luchar” (“fighting is worth it”) and “Sin temor alguno” (“with no fear at all”), delivered with enthusiasm by Primera and an ensemble of extremely talented musicians. Amaranta Perez, a songwriter who revives traditional Venezuelan rhythms, opened the concert with a beautiful collage weaving spoken reflections with songs filled with longing for the rich simplicity of rural life.

The concert closed with the words of the “Committee for the Defense of Cerro La Vieja,” many of whom are communards from El Maizal. They talked about Chavez’s legacy, including the Fifth Historical Objective in the 2012 “Plan de la Patria” (“Homeland Plan”), which calls for the need to preserve life on the planet. Then Sandino Primera and the Committee together sang “Coquivacoa,” a song by Ali Primera calling for an end to the devastation of Maracaibo Lake in western Venezuela.

Photos by Seguei Alvarado and Jhosy Coronado.