Venezuelan Punk: Opposing Authoritarianism Through Counterspaces
An analysis of the physical and digital realms of countercultural activity from 2014 to the present
Riccardo Francesco Crocamo Student ID: 13496638
Word count: 23.106
Master’s Thesis in Latin American Studies Supervisor: Dr Christien Klaufus University of Amsterdam, CEDLA
I wish to express my fondest thanks to all the exponents of the Venezuelan punk scene that I managed to interview in these past months. Without their contribution I would not have felt so incredibly motivated and proud to undertake this research. I managed to establish a solid working relationship with all of my respondents, and on top of that, I managed to form a very enjoyable partnership. I dedicate this thesis to all the Venezuelan punks around the world. Without their incredible cultural
contributions, this research would not have existed. I only hope that the dedication they showed me can be repaid through my work. I also want to thank my supervisor, Dr Christien Klaufus, for allowing me the freedom to choose my own path in this research, and without her knowledge, I would not have been able to conduct such a deeply satisfying research. A special thanks goes to all my course mates who, despite barely seeing each other this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we managed to form a special friendship and supported each other throughout. Last but not least, I want to thank my family, without whom I would not have been able to do any of this, you are the rock in my life.
This research focuses on the context of the Venezuelan punk scene from the
beginning of the recent crisis to the present day in order to understand the efforts put forward by the country’s punks to maintain their identity and sense of community. By focalising on the vicissitudes of Venezuelan punk across three dimensions of
analysis, this thesis illuminates the adaptability punk possesses despite the
hardships brought about by the country’s humanitarian emergency. The hindrance of countercultural production in Venezuela forced a significant number of Venezuelan punks to migrate from their country. However, they succeeded in maintaining punk practices through a range of counterspaces, in which their activities shifted from the physical to the digital sphere. Through the reliance of underground networks of communication across a range of digital platforms, Venezuelan punks have
maintained a cohesive set of competences which have allowed them to uphold their identity both inside and outside of Venezuela. The assortment of DIY practices that punks established and developed across the decades in accordance with
technological advancement established the conditions for a resilience of the Venezuelan punk subculture.
Keywords: punk, Venezuela, counterspaces, identity, community, underground networks, digital realm.
Esta investigación se centra en el contexto de la escena punk venezolana desde el inicio de la reciente crisis hasta la actualidad con el fin de comprender los esfuerzos que realizan los punks del país para mantener su identidad y sentido de comunidad.
Esta tesis se focaliza en las transformaciones del punk venezolano a través de tres dimensiones de análisis, destacando la adaptabilidad que posee el punk a pesar de las dificultades provocadas por la emergencia humanitaria del país. El obstáculo de la producción contracultural en Venezuela causó a muchos punks venezolanos a emigrar de su país. Sin embargo, ellos lograron mantener las prácticas punk a
través de una variedad de contraespacios, trasladando las actividades desde el ámbito físico a lo digital lo. A través del utilizo de las redes subterráneas de comunicación, los punks venezolanos han mantenido un conjunto coherente de competencias que les han permitido defender su identidad tanto dentro como fuera de Venezuela. La variedad de prácticas HTM (hazlo-tú-mismo) que los punks establecieron y desarrollaron a lo largo de las décadas de acuerdo con los avances tecnológicos, establecieron las condiciones para la resistencia de la subcultura punk venezolana
Palabras clave: punk, Venezuela, contraespacios, identidad, comunidad, redes subterráneas, esfera digital.
Table of contents
List of Abbreviations 6
List of Figures 7
2. Theoretical Framework and Methodology15
3. Being Punk in Venezuela – From Chávez to the Present21 3.1. Chavismo as the Dominant Paradigms of Venezuelan Society 23
3.2. La Regresión del Punk Venezolano 24
3.3. El Muerto Seguía Gobernando – Venezuelan Punk after Chávez 28
3.4. Conclusion 34
4. The Venezuelan Punk Scene across Digital Counterspaces37
4.1. Physical Counterspaces in Bogotá 38
4.2. Digital Counterspaces of Venezuelan Punk 39
4.3. New Stages of Venezuelan Punk: Social Media, Online Streaming, and
Digital Collaboration 42
4.4. Conclusion 50
5. Venezuelan DIY Punk Scenes in a Global Context53 5.1. DIY Culture in the Global South: The Case of Venezuela 53
5.2. DIY in Venezuela Today 56
5.3. El Punk y Los Derechos Humanos – Una Colaboración DIY Venezolana 62
5.4. DIY Digital Platforms for Venezuelan Punk 64
5.5. Conclusion 66
Appendix I: Diagram and Definitions of Punk Subgenres 83 Appendix II: List of Venezuelan Punk Bands by Genre 87 Appendix III: Table Showing Punk EPs and LPs of Venezuelan Bands Mentioned
89 Appendix IV: Table of Venezuelan Punk Record Labels and Produced Albums
91 Appendix V: Table of Venezuelan Punk Radio Stations 93 Appendix VI: Table of Venezuelan Punk Social Media Accounts 95
Appendix VII: Table of Respondents 97
Appendix VIII: Original Quotes in Order of Appearance 99
List of Abbreviations
7” 45 or 33 rpm record, 7 inches in diameter DIY Do It Yourself
EP Extended play
HDR Humano Derecho Records
LP Long playing
TZ Tukuca Zakayama
List of Figures
Figure 3.1: Cover image of the first cassette recorded by Venezuelan Hardcore, Anarcho-Punk band Doña Maldad (2001-2002). (p.
Figure 3.2: Cover image of Tukuca Zakayama’s second album,
Generalísimo del Siglo XXI. Album recorded and released in 2016. (p. 32)
Figure 4.1: Performance of Venezuelan Hardcore band Exilio at Antípoda club in Bogotá, Colombia in 2019. (p. 39)
Figure 4.2: Cover image of the compilation Rock Anti Enchufados
Volume 1, produced by HDR and released in March 2021. (p.
Figure 5.1: Cover page of the punk fanzine Asalto Urbano, compiled throughout the pandemic of COVID-19 in 2020. (p. 60)
Figure 8.1: Diagram of the various music genres that developed across time and a visual representation of the interrelations between each community. (p. 83)
Venezuela’s current crisis has grown to outstanding figures, with over five million Venezuelan citizens having left their homeland in search of a better future. Living conditions in Venezuela have massively deteriorated since Nicolás Maduro’s ascent to power in 2013, and over the years, a worsening of the political and economic conditions have developed and exacerbated shortages of food and medicine, blackouts, and indiscriminate violence (UNHCR, 2020).1 From the first stages of the recent massive migration wave, beginning as early as 2015, the flow of people out of the country has gradually increased over time, rendering the Venezuelan Exodus the largest forced displacement of people in the Latin American continent (Bachelet, 2020).2 The demography of Venezuelans departing their home country include people from diverse social backgrounds, with the vast majority seeking refuge in other countries in the region (Venezuelan Refugee and Migrant Crisis, 2020).3
Among the millions of refugees, musicians account for a significant portion of the population (Olivares, 2014). This thesis will focus on those pertaining to the punk subculture. Punk is more generally known as musical genre where the tunes are characterised by fast-paced rhythms and short songs, with tough melodies and aggressive overtones, often accompanied by anti-establishment lyrics. Yet, punk is not simply a musical genre, it consists of a set of values, attitudes, and practices that are based on the notion of social dissent. Through different behavioural, musical, and costume orientations, punks seek alternative lifestyles that strongly diverge from the dominant norms of society (Clark, 2003; Moran, 2010). Stemming from teen adolescence angst, as proposed by Moran (2010), punk subculture obtained its power through the ability to “[…] shock and dismay, to disobey prescribed confines of class, gender, and ethnicity” (Clark, 2003, p. 223). Punks sought to engage in these different
1 Despite the intensifying of the crisis, more and more people are attempting to leave their country in the hopes of building a better future. According to the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) circa 5.5 million people have left their homes in Venezuelan since the beginning of the crisis and continue to seek a safer path to a new life.
2 One of the latest updates on the human rights situation in Venezuela, affirms that, as of March 10, 2020, at least 4.9 million people have left the country, according to the UN Regional Platform.
3 The vast majority of Venezuelans on the move (4.2 million) have stayed within the region. Colombia hosts the greatest number of refugees and migrants from Venezuela, a total of 1.8 million. Other hosting nations include Peru (861,000), Chile (455,500), Ecuador (366,600) and Brazil (253,500) (Venezuelan Refugee and Migrant Crisis, 2020).
forms of social diversion through an array of different methods, which consist of cultural, political, and musical practices.
During its initial stages, the punk movement related to a set of musical genres that first developed in the mid-1970s exploding across the USA and the UK with bands like the Ramones, the Sex Pistols, and The Clash, among others (Guglielmi, 1997, p. 5).
Mainstream production in that decade was aimed at satisfying market demands, rather than mobilising social protest movements. However, punk arrived during a period of social unrest, and became a fitting way to mobilise society with calls to action amongst the political turmoil (Savage, 2001, p. XIV). The decision to choose punks as the main subjects of enquiry stems from my own personal interest; I have always been very close to punk music and its subgenres. More specifically, what stood out when I was first listening to punk bands from a very young age were the lyrics, and especially those of The Clash, who delivered messages across musical performance. This band was the first one to show me the ability to send a message that I could understand.
Songs like White Riot, Police and Thieves, and Know Your Rights (all three by The Clash) sent a direct and clear message. Furthermore, the directness of the themes made me understand how punk was a musical genre available to everyone, precisely because of the transparency of its lyrics and themes, highlighting one of the fundamental aspects of punk subculture.
The term punk has repeatedly been associated alongside notions that accompany social movements and the development of fringe societies. Punk is a counterculture fit for protest that came to be embraced almost naturally in Latin American countries.
Punk fostered the development of underground cultural scenes and DIY (“Do-It- Yourself”) practices, such as the establishment of independent record labels and venues, across different urban centres of Venezuela. These cultural spheres found solid footing in Venezuela, maintaining a strong presence. Yet, the current political and economic circumstances have vastly hindered the most recent developments of this counterculture. Over the years, musicians who sought to denounce the abuse of authoritarianism have been increasingly susceptible to the daily routines of fear and violence characteristic of Maduro’s regime. The repression in Venezuela denies punks and other cultural and political dissenters the possibility to express their anger, frustration, and disillusionment, consequently rendering them susceptible to physical harm and possible jail-time. Akin to the rest of the general population, Venezuelan punks have found themselves in a position where their desires and activities have
been abruptly pushed in the background of their daily lives. The deterioration of living conditions in the country have led the people’s main focus to be to seek out basic medicaments and foodstuffs in circumstances where these have become extremely difficult to come by. Hence, precisely because of these events, millions of Venezuelans decided to migrate to other countries in search for more stable living conditions.
It is important to understand the essential role that punk plays and has always played in professing freedom of thought, opposition to “selling out”, the importance of DIY and non-conformist attitudes, and in the particular case of contemporary Venezuela, the resistance to authoritarian rule. In fact, throughout its many surges across the globe (Dunn, 2008), punk has come to assert itself during periods of social turmoil, becoming a fitting way to mobilise society with calls to action and raising awareness through the production and dissemination of countercultural merchandise, which can be exemplified by two recent instances: the first is the role played by punks in aiding and supporting the social movement in the city of Oaxaca, Mexico from June to September 2006;4 and more recently, another example can be seen with the situation in Myanmar, where the song “One Day” by the local punk band Rebel Riot has become the anthem behind which the anti-coup protesters have rallied (MC, 2021). What is notable about the case of punk in Latin America, however, is that youths are faced with a more active political struggle on a daily basis as a result of the context in which people are brought up in. The struggles against dictatorships, involvement in guerrilla movements, Zapatismo, policies of immigration, and anarchism are still elements of people’s everyday realities (Squire, 2009). Precisely because of punk’s politicised nature, the politicised youths embraced punk music as a driver for social change.
Furthermore, this research ventures from the observation that with the passing of the years and a struggling economy and political system under Nicolás Maduro, there has been an increase in authoritarianism and street violence, causing the punk scene to retrench quite significantly for fear of governmental and popular repercussions.
Nonetheless, such a succession of events has also supplied a vast amount of material for punks and other countercultures to engage in meaningful protest through the production of art. What is significant about the case of Venezuelan punk, is that the current political and social circumstances within the country increasingly hinder the
4 For further reading see Magaña, 2020.
possibility for the development of a punk scene. In spite of a diminishing national punk scene, punks in the country still seek to engage in independent forms of countercultural production. The millions of Venezuelans leaving their home country have also caused a reduction in number of punk bands within the country, thus limiting the output of cultural forms of expression. However, the migration process has concomitantly fostered the development of a number of Venezuelan punk scenes outside of the country. This research therefore focuses on two instances outside of Venezuela, more specifically Colombia, as it is the largest recipient of Venezuelan migrants, and Spain, an important hub for the establishment of Venezuelan punk in Europe. Consequently, this thesis considers the notion of Venezuelan migrant punks in the establishment and development of Venezuela’s punk scene.
This thesis proposes the following research question:
“How do Venezuelan punks’ identities come to be created through their use of physical and digital counterspaces?”
In order to answer the research question, this thesis presents three chapters. The first chapter focuses on the realities faced by punks in Venezuela from the movement’s first wave to the present. More specifically, the conceptualisation of being punk in Venezuela will be examined according to the various contexts in which the scene developed and changed in proportion to the political, economic, and social background. This will be furthermore explained through a series of testimonies given by exponents of the different Venezuelan punk scenes around the world. Beginning with the era of Neoliberal politics in the 1980s, the analysis shifts through time whilst focussing on the dominant paradigms of society of Chavismo, and how these came to hinder the development of countercultural productions in the country. Throughout the decades the cultural output varied significantly and in accordance with the roles covered by the political leaders’ influences and policies. By illuminating the notions of countercultural production in accordance with these events, this chapter portrays the development of Venezuela’s punk scene and its various spheres of activity.
By elaborating this last argument, the thesis moves onto the next chapter.
Following an explanation of the various counterspaces of Venezuelan punk activity, this section builds on the theories proposed by Veronis (2007) and Alencar (2019)
about the use of these spaces and how the digital has become of primary importance in forging a sense of community and belonging among Venezuelan migrants, and thence applied to migrant punks more specifically. This will further be analysed by considering Jessa Lingel’s reasoning (2017) regarding the importance of digital countercultures in their struggles to build a sense of community and her particular case study on a punk community in New Jersey. These notions are further explained by analysing a range of Venezuelan punks’ use of both physical and digital counterspaces and how these mutual interactions and uses of social networks have allowed for a subsequent development of other scenes following the patterns of Venezuelan migration as well as how Venezuelan punks in Venezuela have sought alternatives to the physical spaces to express their values and feelings.
The third and final chapter focuses on the notion of DIY underground cultures, primarily focussing on the definition and theory provided by Andy Bennett and Paula Guerra (2019). The underground is a loose term that “[…] brings together notions of youth conviviality, artistic production, mainstream defiance, ritual performance [and] is in essence a collective creative network, which expresses everyday aesthetics in youth-culture contexts” (Bennett & Guerra, 2019, p. 11). Although the analysis and definition provided focus on the context of Neoliberal countries, this chapter seeks to analyse the notion of DIY in the socialist authoritarian regime that has become Venezuela, thereby building on their limited theory. Hence, this research seeks to contribute to the theory presented by Bennett and Guerra (2019) by broadening the political scope of these authors’ claims. As a result of the increasing shift of Venezuelan punk to digital spheres, the chapter continues in an analysis of such spaces and products, allowing to engage in collaborative forms of production and participation in maintaining the punk culture active through the making of fanzines, albums, and the circulation of Venezuelan punk materials according to a wide range of DIY methods and practices, from more independent initiatives to campaigns of cooperation with Human Rights Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs from now on).
Features of punk textuality are described by Stacy Thompson (2004) as elements of the punk project. The commodities produced through DIY punk methods consist of several forms of textuality: recorded and performed music, style (i.e., clothing), the printed word (i.e., fanzines), cinema, and events. However, as a result of the limited scope of the research and the amount of information available, the elements of the
punk project analysed in this thesis focus mostly on the recorded and performed music, the written word, as well as a certain instances of digital events and collaborations. In fact, the analyses of such cultural products present the essence of the manner in which punks assert their own political cultures and identities. In the particular case of Venezuelan punk, these qualities are analysed through the scope of the Venezuelan migration process and the consequent effects of the diaspora on punks who left the country and those who decided to stay in Venezuela. The arguments developed and presented will thus culminate in understanding how Venezuelan punks’ political identity comes to be created and maintained both within and outside the country. In order to answer the research question, the scope of this thesis will focus on the more recent productions of Venezuelan punk, from around the period of Maduro’s first election in 2013 to the present. These three chapters are organised in a chronological manner, which provide elaborate arguments that shed light on the establishment, development and use of punk counterspaces across the globe in the past eight years.
2. Theoretical Framework and Methodology
With this body of work, this thesis sheds light on the nature of spaces in which punk exists and thrives through efforts of independent cultural production (Magaña, 2020;
Lingel, 2017; Bennett & Guerra, 2019). These theories are based on the concept of space derived from a series of academic studies on the punk movement and underground music scenes in general. This thesis presents the notion of counterspace as defined by Rafael M. Magaña (2020). This notion aids in understanding how currently, both physical and digital spaces come to be created and used by punks to engage in activities of musical production and sharing of knowledge and information.
Counterspaces constitute “[…] spatial projects produced through the political imagination and practice of social movements, as an alternative to the spaces created by the dominant system” (Magaña, 2020, p. 2).
The counterspaces considered in this thesis represent both material and immaterial dimensions, such as cultural centres and online spaces (from social media to music streaming websites). To conduct this research, the proposed framework is based on a triple dimension of analysis. The first aspect focuses on the punk scene abroad, created through the physical migration of Venezuelan punks to other countries such as Colombia and Spain. The second dimension considered, focuses on the shift from physical spaces to the digital space, in which Venezuelan punks engage in meaningful forms of social activism and protest, fostering the creation of a digital scene. Lastly, the third identified trajectory “travels back” to Venezuela, to analyse the current DIY scene within the country, and thus returning to the physical dimension. In all, this thesis presents three dimensions of analysis in which both physical and digital spaces come to constitute suitable environments in which a punk scene can develop.
These different networks allow punks to share music, information, and other forms of punk textuality, making the produced commodities accessible to both local and global audiences. Following this reasoning, this research aims to shed light on the ability for Venezuelan migrant punks to create and voice their political stance and political cultures, which they produce and divulge through different network media. The presence of such counterspaces provide a valuable alternative platform from which Venezuelans can exercise their right of freedom of speech both within and outside of their homeland. In sum, the aim of this thesis is to demonstrate how the humanitarian
crisis has underlined the importance of contemporary cultural counterspaces through which Venezuelan punks come to forge their political identity by engaging in punk forms of production.
The ongoing crisis has undoubtedly contributed to the resurfacing of features of the Venezuelan punk project in recent times through an array of counterspaces.
Consequently, it renders the topic relevant for both social and academic purposes of enquiry. This research presents a number of substantial features that not only contribute in creating a better understanding of the Venezuelan punk movement, but the development of various scenes across the world further emphasises the importance of this movement in a global context. Through the retelling of different accounts of the establishment and development of Venezuela’s punk scenes, this research seeks to elucidate how the movement continues to survive through digital and physical counterspaces and is successful in maintaining the core values of punk across borders.
Punk possesses unique features that in present circumstances have gained ever more traction. The increasing interconnection between various punk scenes through digital networks has fostered a sense of globalness and generated the means for various punk scenes to come about through collaborations across a myriad of underground structures and DIY competences. In contexts where capitalism and neoliberalism are running rampant, many scholars (Bennett & Guerra, 2020; Straw, 2020; Benhaïm, 2020) highlight the increasing importance of DIY methods in fostering cohesion and collectiveness through underground networks of collaboration. Yet, when considering these dimensions through the accounts of Venezuelan punks around the world, this research will enrich the collective memory of punk and present a specific testimony as to how people and punks alike have come to embrace a reinvigorated wave of resilience and resistance in recent years.
By engaging and sharing information through digital spaces, this thesis investigates how the humanitarian crisis in Venezuela has stimulated punks to speak out against the politics of Nicolás Maduro and fostered individuals to take up independent initiatives to contribute to the limited countercultural production during the rule of Hugo Chávez. Consequently, the various audiences created through these counterspaces come to create their own identity where before they felt obstructed in attempting to do so in their home country. The reality of being a migrant, a Venezuelan migrant, comes to be reinforced through punk, fostering a sense of purpose and
belonging despite the absence or the reduced physical space in which to engage in countercultural activities. In fact, precisely because music possesses an intrinsic power to move consciousness, digital spaces grant and encourage the possibility for Venezuelans both within and outside of the country to forge their own identities by becoming active players in their spheres of influence. This has always been a fundamental character of protest music, and consequently, of punk as well.
The notion of counterspace has been widely discussed in relation to countercultural movements and underground music scenes, yet, this thesis presents a unique approach to understanding the meaning they take up in the context of Venezuelan punk. The way in which punk artists maintain their individuality, and at the same time, come to create a sense of collectivity, stems precisely from the modus operandi of cultural counterspaces. The unique role played by Venezuelan punks represents a largely overlooked portion of a subculture which struggles to survive through the realities of abuses of a dictatorship and the conditions of being a migrant in another country. Venezuelan punks have to demonstrate their own particular DIY competences in environments where material resources are extremely complicated to come by, as well as the possibilities to carry out forms of meaningful protest. Acting out their non-conformism is vastly hindered by the current circumstances of violence and repression in Venezuela, and further underlined by the distance from their home country. Hence, this analysis presents an extremely relevant feature of enquiry of punk counterculture, and the approach proposed in this thesis will seek to lay the foundation for a framework from which punk scenes in conditions similar to the different Venezuelan scenes can be interpreted, understood, and proposed for further research.
To provide a more comprehensive understanding of the Venezuelan punk scene, in addition to the theories and notions previously outlined, the primary sources for the thesis consist of a number of interviews conducted with exponents of the current Venezuelan punk scene during a two-month fieldwork period. The information was acquired throughout this period with the objective of providing a more detailed account of the development of the counterculture in Venezuela. Given the absence of academic publications on Venezuelan punk, the sources gathered during the two- month fieldwork period consisted of a number of interviews carried out with a selection of exponents who are currently active within the scene. In order to compose a more rounded account of how the scene has evolved, the primary sources were
complemented by a selection of data accessible from digital platforms, made up of elements of the punk project. These included albums, fanzines, social media accounts and pages, record labels, and web radio stations (see Appendix). As a result of the limitations due to current travel restrictions, the fieldwork process consisted predominantly of desk-research. The collection and analysis of the elements of the punk project coupled with a thorough investigation of testimonies given by these punk proponents allow for an immersive understanding of the modus operandi of the current Venezuelan punk scenes.
In order to select the respondents for the interviews, I sought to contact Rafael Uzcátegui, whose name I had come across several times when reading about the current trends in the Venezuelan punk scene. Uzcátegui is the director of Provea, a human rights NGO based in Caracas, Venezuela. Other than providing aid to the victims of Venezuela’s abuse of human rights, state impunity, corruption and oppression, the NGO has undertaken several collaborations with diverse Venezuelan punk and rock bands. Consequently, he supplied me with the contacts of other members of the punk scene currently active in Caracas and Colombia. These were Johnny Castro, owner of Noseke Records – one of the oldest punk record labels in the country; Enrique, a pseudonym to refer to an active member of a punk band from Caracas whose identity has been concealed for security reasons, and thirdly, I received the contact of Juan Pablo, another Venezuelan punk musician who currently resides in Bogotá. I proceeded to exchange messages with them informing them about the aim of my research and asking them if they could pass on some other contacts of punks around the world. They each provided around three to four contacts, all of which I sought to contact throughout the first two to three weeks to find out their role on the scene and their principal focus with regards to cultural DIY productions.
However, throughout the fieldwork period, I managed to exchange messages with only four more contacts. Duff FromHell in Caracas, musician in two punk bands and owner of an independent record label; José Francisco, who conducts a web radio station about punk rock in Madrid, Spain; Juan Ignacio, singer of a legendary Venezuelan punk band; and lastly, I spoke to Paul Santana, member of a Venezuelan band in Spain. As a result of the limited number of respondents I decided to carry out an archival type of investigation to add to the information gathered so far. I focussed mainly on digital spaces, where I sought to gather as much information as I could about the Venezuelan punk scenes through transcribed interviews, social media posts, and
music streaming platforms. Instagram, Facebook, and Bandcamp provided me with the most useful and wide-ranging information (see Appendix). Because of the plethora of material available online, I decided to prevalently use digital material from 2014 to the present. I chose this date because it roughly coincides with the beginning of the crisis in Venezuela.
In order to organise the data collected, I created an Excel file and organised the information in a matrix where I cross-referenced elements of the punk project with the date of release, the place, and the digital spaces where they could be found, the major themes, and eventual collaborations. This was a gradual process that lasted throughout the fieldwork and was also complemented by the information I obtained during the interviews. The primary categories that I chose include a selection of the Venezuelan punk bands that are currently active, a fanzine, online and physical record labels, web radio stations, podcasts, and online streaming websites such as Bandcamp and SoundCloud. It is primarily through these platforms that we can encounter and come to know a plethora of recorded Venezuelan punk music, including a significant number of collaborations between different bands around the world.
Concomitantly with this process, I organised the interviews in a semi-structured outline, which would allow enough flexibility for the discourse but at the same time conform the direction of the argument being discussed and contemporarily recorded through a microphone. The subjects of the dialogues were organised by topic, and were mainly consistent between the different respondents, although the major differences in questions were based on the location, period of activity, and role covered in regards to the punk scene. The common themes of discussion regarded historical developments of the punk scene, the definition of punk according to each participant, the role of social media in relation to the punk scene, eventual collaborations across digital spaces, notable events affecting the punk scene, and the details of various production processes.
Initially, I had set myself the task of carrying out interviews with all eight respondents. Yet, despite managing to conduct five interviews across a period of three weeks, a number of issues came up with three of the respondents and we did not manage to carry out interviews. The principal hindrance was related to the limited time availability for interviews towards the end of the fieldwork period, thus affecting the operationalisation of the fieldwork to a minor extent. Instead, I decided on an alternative methodology and sent out three questionnaires, each with questions that
were more specific than in the previous interviews. I had to resort to this method because if I left the questions too vague, I might not have obtained the information required.
With regards to the transcription of the interviews, I relied on oTranscribe, a free web app that allowed me to upload the audio file and transcribe the conversation. I then proceeded to label the transcripts according to a personally-devised colour- coding system. Each colour represented a specific topic of interest, in accordance with the themes discussed throughout the interviews, thus allowing for a clearer understanding of the arguments being developed and exposed by each respondent.
When contacting each respondent for an interview, I made sure to send them both a consent form and information brochure, in order for them to better grasp the nature of my research as well as clarifying their doubts with regards to the storing of their personal data. To further protect their data, at the beginning of each interview, I asked for the respondent’s permission to record the conversation. The recording of each interview, including the transcripts were appropriately stored on an external hard disk to protect the identity of the participants and guarantee their anonymity, only accessible to members of the research staff, including myself.
3. Being Punk in Venezuela – From Chávez to the Present
The punk scene in Venezuela came to be established in the last two decades of the twentieth century. As stated in the introduction, punk asserts itself in periods characterised by social turmoil, and Venezuela in the 1980s provided the perfect environment for this new subculture to thrive. This period, in fact, witnessed a regression in the Venezuelan economy, where not only did the national currency become devalued, but was characterized by a rapid succession of governments without clear goals. The lack of competence across the higher administration portrayed a clear picture of inefficiency and corruption that exacerbated the crisis across the various echelons of society (Lander, 1996). Consequently, these developments served as catalyst for the widespread events of political and social opposition to the neoliberal government of the country. Although seemingly disorganized and uncoordinated, the protests had powerful effects. Occurring on a daily basis throughout the country, national outcry emphasized the widespread opposition and dissatisfaction towards the leading party in power (Silva, 2009).
The late 1980s attests to one of the moments of strongest opposition towards the country’s neoliberal government, as a result of a series of economic adjustments proposed by the IMF, which caused a drastic downturn of the country’s GDP (Wilpert, 2007; Huber & Stolt, 2004). Because of the immediate rise in petrol prices and the increased costs of public services, including public transport, people began to rise in protest. The widespread discontent culminated in a week-long succession of riots, shootings, and killings at the end of the month February 1989. This devastating period came to be known as El Caracazo and demonstrated the inefficiency of the government at containing and mediating the population’s frustrations.
It was during this particular period that punk established itself in major urban centres of Venezuela.5 In fact, growing sentiments of non-conformism, opposition to authority and oppression allowed for the punk subculture to find firm footing within the country. Certain groups of Venezuelan youths embraced punk as a new way of life
5 Among the most notable cultural centres in the country during the first wave of punk was the Colectivo RajataVla, a cultural centre that gave punks in Caracas the possibility to engage in DIY productions as well as offering a venue in which they could perform their music (Uzcátegui, 2019).
and set of values that alienated them from the context in which they had grown up. A clear example can be found in the book Educación Anterior (2019), that presents a clear summary of what punk was at that time in Venezuela.
“1) El punk promovía el Do It Yourself (Hazlo Tú Mismo). ¿Quieres hacer una canción?
No hacen falta años de conservatorio: agarra una guitarra o fabrícate algo que haga ruido ¡y hazla!; 2) El punk era una comida mal digerida, que por fin lograba salir de tu aparato digestivo: era enojo, en forma y contenido; 3) No era para tus padres y 4) Ni para la mayoría de la gente que conocías” (Lagos, 2015 cited in Uzcátegui, 2019).
This quote contains the fundamental aspects of punk, which consist of a series of cultural acts and products: musical production with political and behavioural connotations, with the main focus of challenging the dominant paradigms of mainstream society. “No era para tus padres” is possibly the strongest statement in the quote because it seeks to break ideologically, culturally, and politically with the generation that conformed to society the most. The antagonism that teens demonstrate towards their parents during their adolescence creates a vivid analogy from which it is easy to understand how punk refuses all forms of authority, starting with the notion of family, the closest ties individuals have with reality. As a result, punk can be wholly understood through the term counterculture, which “[…] has been used to refer to a number of subcultures that intentionally oppose mainstream norms and values” (Lingel, 2017, p. 6). Therefore, this definition coupled with the historical developments of Venezuela from the 1980s onwards allows for a clear depiction of this social and cultural phenomenon in the country.
Following the turn of the century, the dominant paradigms of Venezuelan society came to change through a gradual process of political, social, economic, and cultural reform. Yet, before delving into this analysis, it is essential to understand the succession of events and actions carried out by Chavez’s administration along the lines of the Bolivarian Revolution (Strønen, 2018). The various adaptations brought about after Hugo Chávez’s election in 1998 led to a paradigm shift in the dominant patterns of Venezuelan socio-political understanding. This chapter will elaborate the principal features of this transformation, followed by a series of first-hand accounts and explanations which will shed light on how the nature of the punk counterculture came to challenge such dominating social and cultural ideals of Venezuela.
3.1 The Dominant Paradigms of Venezuelan Society
Throughout his first years in the presidency, Hugo Chávez encountered a permeating opposition from the principal political adversaries embodied by the country’s neoliberal elite who had enjoyed widespread and relatively unopposed rule in the previous decades. More precisely, there had been a gradual and steady decline of presidential support during his first term (see table in Hawkins, 2003, p. 1143). The political tension culminated in April 2002, when military officers demanded the president’s resignation following the escalation of violence at a peaceful march and staged a coup. Eventually, as a consequence of the poor organisational skills and widespread disagreements in the government, Hugo Chávez was released and reinstated as the country’s president.
In this first period, Chávez came to witness a serious threat to his position as legitimate president, and, fearful he could lose the position to his opponents, in the following years carried out a number of changes to limit the possible repercussions (Crocamo, 2019).
Throughout his presidency, Hugo Chávez enacted a vast number of reforms which allowed him to further consolidate his position as undisputed leader of Venezuela.
Such developments, coupled with the repression of the opposition-led media, steadily replaced the once democratic administrative system, transforming the relationship between society and the state (Crocamo, 2019). The series of political, social, and economic changes were seen “[…] as threatening by those sectors of the population whose socio-cultural and political dominance was challenged and undermined”
(Strønen, 2018, p. 155). This mutation was part of the larger scheme of the Bolivarian Revolution, which imbued the minds of the poorer strata of Venezuelan population.
Furthermore, the Chávez administration began to introduce a number of social reforms starting in 2004 (the beginning of one of the country’s most prominent oil booms), when a series of social policies, known as Bolivarian Missions, began to take hold among the population (Ellner, 2005,).
As a result, the ideals of the Bolivarian Revolution strongly advocated by El Comandante (Chávez) throughout his rule came to pervade the minds of large portions of Venezuelan citizenry, who embraced the ideals and the meaning of the Bolivarian process, yet leading to an increasing polarization of Venezuelan society (Strønen,
2018). Although gathering much support among the poorer strata of the population, the principles, beliefs, and innovative attitudes advocated through the label of
“Socialism of the 21st Century” brought about a clear distinction between Chávez’s supporters and opponents.
However, as Strønen (2018) suggests, “[…] interest-based opposition alone cannot count for explaining the aggravated hostility and fear-mongering that characterised opposition to the Chávez government and its supporters” (Strønen, 2018, p. 155). In fact, the connection that Chávez managed to create with his followers identified the capitalist opposition as the principal enemy to fight during his political rule and various campaigns. The vast number of referenda called by the commander in chief during his presidency culminated in the weakening or abolishing of a number of mediatic and political institutions which had until then, garnered a significant amount of support and freedom to profess their views against the president and his social reforms. Moreover, through the concept of “Bolivarian space”, Strønen seeks to explain how this process can be understood as a template through which the ideals of neoliberalism and global capitalism are perpetually seen as a negative connotation in the eyes of the supporters of the Bolivarian Revolution (see Strønen, 2017 cited in Strønen, 2018). Through each referendum, Chávez further consolidated his hold on power whilst cautiously transforming the country’s political system into what Corrales (2011) has defined as a hybrid regime.6 As a consequence, the succession of events and reforms established the basis for Venezuela’s paradigm shift in the dominant patterns of socio-political understanding and norms.
3.2 La Regresión del Punk Venezolano
In spite of such changes, there were still significant portions of the population, primarily supporters of the political opposition, that firmly disagreed with the direction in which the country was headed. With regards to the punk scene, there were also a number of artists that stood against Chávez’s populist rhetoric and actively denounced the ecological spoliation that was occurring in remote areas of the country at the expense
6 A hybrid regime constitutes either a former democracy, or former autocracy that has “[…] moved toward an
“in-between” position, a “grey zone” in which rulers introduce autocratic practices without totally abolishing democratic institutions, particularly free elections” (Corrales, 2011, p. 138).
of rural and indigenous communities. Among these bands, Doña Maldad, an Anarcho- Punk (see Appendix I) band from Maracaibo and one of the pioneers of the Hardcore Punk scene. Within the broader punk scene, it is the one strand that opposes commodification more than any other; moreover, the themes are primarily aimed against war, consumerism, and other social issues (Thompson, 2004). The songs of Doña Maldad during the first few years of the 2000s condemned the actions of the government in the state of Zulia, the Venezuelan Amazon, and the unrestricted extraction of oil from the Orinoco Petroleum Belt in the eastern part of the Orinoco River Basin.7
Figure 3.1. Cover of first cassette produced by Doña Maldad (source: Doña Maldad – . . .Y El Estado Hipócrita Continúa Asesinando. . . (2004, Cassette), 2004).
Despite the efforts of social campaigns by certain bands, from a cultural perspective, the national punk scene underwent a period of regression, in which the amount of musical production compared to the previous decades waned considerably.
7 For further reading about the extractivist policies under Chávez see Mantovani, 2015.
More specifically, in the years 2004 – 2008, the country enjoyed one of the most prolific oil booms since the beginning of the twentieth century (Herrera, 2008). During this period of economic bonanza, Chávez and his administration sought to implement a number of social, cultural and economic reforms (the most notable of these initiatives came to be known as Misiones Bolivarianas) aimed primarily at decreasing the percentage of poverty and inequality in the country.8 Yet, through this campaign of further social and cultural inclusion, the Venezuelan government sought to incorporate the punk counterculture by dragging it out of the underground scene and financing the bands efforts to produce their music. A number of punk and rock bands preferred receiving considerable amount of funds and changing their rhetoric rather than continuing their struggles in the underground scenes of the country. As a result, several of underground bands that were previously critical of the government, changed sides and began supporting their president, becoming part of the mainstream rock scene of the country.
“[…] el punk venezolano, al igual que otros movimientos sociales del país, sufrió un proceso de cooptación bajo Hugo Chávez. [El] gobierno también distribuyó mucho dinero para financiar el punk y con ello finalmente silenciarlo. Se destinó mucho dinero para los “eventos de artes circenses”, un ambiente en el que orbitaban muchos punks, y también para los llamados Núcleos de Desarrollo Endógeno, donde se realizaban permanentemente conciertos” (interview Rafael Uzcátegui – 25/04/2021).
From this statement, it is possible to understand how the Venezuelan government sought to incorporate the punk counterculture by dragging it out of the underground scene and financing the bands efforts to produce their music. When comparing the situation in Venezuela to the circumstances in the UK punk scene in the late 1970s, it is possible to draw some parallels and understand how the culture industry at the time successfully managed to commodify the musical genre, transforming the underground movement into another product of the capitalist consumerist society. Through such
8 “According to the 2007 Social Panorama of Latin America, a report released by the United Nations’ Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean, between 2002 and 2006 Venezuela decreased poverty by 18.4 percent and extreme poverty by 12.3 percent […].” (Herrera, 2008, p. 158). Chávez’s administration has been heavily criticised by scholars such as Francisco Rodríguez for creating an undemocratic regime. However, the government and its partners’ expenses increased and received widespread popular support as a result of its effectiveness (PdVSA provided many of the funds for the social missions) social (Herrera, 2008).
process, not only the music, but the aesthetics and all elements of the punk scene and project, which were so symbolic in rejecting society’s status quo and conformism, were, in fact, co-opted, the direct opposite of what punk embodied as a whole.
Notwithstanding, the situation in Venezuela began to change following the first repercussions of the economic crisis of 2008. Towards the last years of El Comandante’s second mandate as president (2007-2013), his political support began to waver following a growth in the country’s economic imbalances. In fact, problems began to arise as soon as oil prices began to fall drastically. Venezuela’s economy was solely reliant on unrefined oil exports and thus, the country’s inflation rates began to grow significantly, increasing by 20 percent each year (López, 2014). Therefore, the population gradually began to realise the mistakes they had made by supporting Hugo Chávez in the past, including the many punk and rock bands that had defended the Bolivarian Revolution with their music, condemning those who opposed their president’s rule. Interestingly, many of the bands that had come together under more favourable circumstances began to disagree with one another and obvious rifts were beginning to form, and would be increasingly accentuated following the death of President Chávez on March 5, 2013. The circumstances are clearly detailed in the following testimony which summarises the reasons behind these bands’ split.
“Y bueno, cuando muere Chávez, muchas de esas bandas se desintegraron por muchas razones, primero de que se pelearon entre ellos mismos, hubieron diferencias ideológicas porque ya no era como antes, ya no le prestaban espacio, ya no tenían como apoyo monetario que los partidos políticos chavistas le brindaban a esas bandas, y muchísimos migraron, porque a partir del 2014, para los músicos en general piensas de los distintos bandos fue muy fuerte, sierran las salas de ensayo, hay escasez de instrumentos y de artículos musicales, y la mayoría migraron, y que si quedan si unas cuatro bandas que aun siguen tocando desde la época de Chávez hasta ahorita. Pero hay diferencias súper notables, de hecho, hasta unos son bastante cínicos de que se volvieron opositores y tratan como de ocultar ese pasado. Pero si hubo un movimiento punk chavista bastante fuerte alrededor de 2007-2008 hasta 2014 mas o menos" (interview with Duff FromHell – 13/04/2021).
With this statement it is possible to understand how the political decline of Hugo Chávez was subsequently followed by a cultural decline, in which co-opted punk
bands began to disintegrate because of the ensuing chaos across the administrative echelons and how such difficulties permeated across different societal spheres. This chain reaction thus led to a significant reduction of rehearsal spaces, availability of musical instruments and equipment. Consequently, precisely because the cardinal paradigms of Chavismo began to be disputed by the population, and by default, by the punk bands that had remained hostile to the Bolivarian government, the discourse moves into the last subsection of the chapter. The argument developed unto this point sets the foundations for understanding the subsequent escalation of violence, repression and protest under the rule of Chávez’s successor. The punk scene within the country, despite having come to a near standstill, yet posed a challenge to the government of Venezuela, which was becoming ever so gradually more and more authoritarian. Moreover, the inclusion of oral testimonies of many artists and punk exponents who still reside in the country aid in the portrayal of the daily realities people faced.
3.3 “El Muerto Seguía Gobernando” – Venezuelan Punk After Chávez
Following Chávez’s departure in 2013, the country gradually slid into economic recession, becoming more accentuated with the narrow election win by his successor Nicolás Maduro (Masullo, 2017). From 2013, a growing sense of malcontent began to take hold among the population, especially after the municipal elections in December of the same year. Early in 2014, students rose up in protest, and were marked by disturbing levels of repression and escalating criminalization of protest by state forces, most notably the GNB, PNB, and SEBIN (Guardia Nacional Bolivariana, Policía Nacional Bolivariana, Servicio Bolivariano de Inteligencia Nacional) (Crocamo, 2019).
The newly appointed commander in chief’s inability to maintain the same amount of support in the subsequent period would eventually lead to the collapse of the political and economic system. Tensions in the political, economic, and social spheres increased, as more and more people became dissatisfied with the president and the government’s incompetence.
Such economic and political shifts within the country significantly affected the Venezuelan population, forcing them eventually to fend for themselves or flee the
country. Additionally, it is important to note that not only did this bring about a steady decline in Maduro’s political support, but the increasing violent repression by state forces and paramilitary groups (colectivos), coupled with pervasive levels of corruption and authoritarian rule (López, 2014), led to a significant regression in the underground music scene of the country.
“El caso más grave fue el de Gianni Scovino, un joven anarcopunk de 33 años que fue apaleado brutalmente por la policía durante las manifestaciones del año 2017 en Lechería, estado Anzoátegui. La golpiza, que quedó registrada en video y se viralizó por redes sociales, obligó a que fuera internado en un hospital por los diferentes politraumatismos que recibió” (interview with Uzcátegui – 25/04/2021).
With ever-increasing crackdowns on protesting civilians and political dissenters, as demonstrated by the statement above, the Venezuelan punk scene and civilian population came to be threatened even more by violent state-sanctioned repercussions. Moreover, what transpires from this statement is a clear portrayal of how punk can take on political features. By engaging in forms of political and social activism, punks also cover the role of political actors within the punk scene, thus emphasising the different roles punks adopt in their circles of influence. Consequently, the increasing autocratic rule under Maduro’s regime has made punk activists within the country wary of the consequences that they might face when engaging in forms of cultural production that denounce the systemic violence, impunity, and corruption throughout Venezuelan society. Additionally, such realities led the welfare of the population on a downward spiral, in which the daily preoccupations of the people were centered on accessing basic medicaments and foodstuffs necessary to survive (Page et al., 2019). The levels of incompetence at high bureaucratic levels worried punks and civilians alike, as can be understood from the following statement.
“[…] la calidad de la vida, o digamos de los servicios públicos [había] disminuido bastante, y bueno yo lo viví, […] tu preocupación de cada día era de que ibas a comer ese día. Entonces no te quedaba mas tiempo para poderlo dedicar a hacer otras cosas. Realmente eras como esclavo de tu propia necesidad. Tenias que ver que coño vas a comer” (interview with Juan Pablo – 9/04/2021).
This statement was made by Juan Pablo, leader of three Venezuelan punk bands, who decided to leave Venezuela for Colombia in 2016. Through this assertion, one can come to comprehend the daily anxieties Venezuelan citizens were faced with in the mid-2010s, the years of major economic crisis in Venezuela. Moreover, being part of more political Anarcho-Punk bands, Juan Pablo further underlined how in 2013 he was faced with many threats across social media. Precisely because of the bands’
political activism and criticism towards the regime, punks, and individuals like Juan Pablo were repeatedly accused of being part of right-wing factions and consequently found themselves to be perpetually in a condition of worry about their own survivability (interview with Juan Pablo – 9/04/2021). As a result of such conditions developing and permeating the nation, a number of Venezuelan punk bands that are currently still active within the country have sought to denounce governmental shortcomings and endeavoured to raise awareness through their music.
Nonetheless, what is indispensable to comprehend is that for each of the respondents I interviewed, the meaning of being punk changed. Yet, what transpired from their statements is that to be punk, or to maintain a punk attitude consists of living by a set of beliefs that shape your daily life in comparison to the rest of society. That is to say, according to Juan Pablo, that to be punk means being responsible for your own life, your own actions, embodying the change that you want to see in society, but starting from the individual first and foremost. Simultaneously, for Duff FromHell, record label owner, guitarist of 7 Balazos, a long-standing punk band from Caracas, and singer and guitarist of Tukuca Zakayama, a Hardcore, D-Beat, Powerviolence (see Appendix I) band currently active in Caracas, being punk is primarily a way to find relief in the daily realities of Venezuela. As she states, being punk in Venezuela is very different from punk in any other place, because of the substantial differences that living under a dictatorship entail in comparison to a democracy.
“Bueno, ser punk ahorita es, a ver, por lo menos, mí amistades más que yo a pesar de que tengan las botas y las crestas, trabajan día y noche. La mayoría de ningunos no son vanos, desde que se levantan a que se acuestan trabajan porque actualmente en Caracas si tu no trabajas no puedes ni siquiera tomarte una botella, nada, no puedes hacer nada […], entonces ser punk aquí actualmente en Caracas es un trabajo constante, tanto para su diversión tanto como por su supervivencia. Cuanto, a lo musical, pocas bandas de punk han sito actualmente en Caracas, por lo que la
mayoría de las bandas hemos tomado como que alternativas de ensayar en casa, de ensayar por internet, y de ensayar con tobos de agua y así, y reunir para poder pagar una sala de ensayo. De eventos no tenemos, no hay eventos actualmente, y cuando una o dos bandas punk tienen dinero para ensayar se anima tanto que hasta van mas de diez personas en una sala de ensayo porque de verdad la escasez de eventos es súper notable, incluso [...]. De verdad es difícil mantener una cultura actualmente en Caracas, ni te imaginas en el interior del país. Los que quieren vivir del punk o quieren seguir siendo punk aquí en Venezuela, su mayoría se vienen a Caracas o migran para Colombia" (interview with Duff FromHell – 13/04/2021).
Hence, what can be understood from these descriptions is that the circumstances in which these punks found and find themselves portray a distinct reality in comparison to the scenes that developed in the UK and the US in the 1970s. Punks like Duff strive to maintain a countercultural lifestyle: through their music they seek to find freedom while at the same time express their social criticism in a manner that is more humane, far from the more constrictive terms enclosed by specific political identities and partisan banners. In their performances, counterculture comes to be understood as a direct means of a libertarian way of thinking, free from political definition with the aim of repealing all forms of injustice and tyranny. It is through these efforts that, akin to Duff, other band members and the few punks who have stayed in Venezuela fight to maintain their punk attitudes and lifestyles, despite the consequences that this can bring about in the totalitarian regime that is Venezuela.
This is a prime example of how punk attitude remains strong, as the desire and dedication that these musicians put forward continually challenge the status quo of society and allow them to face the socio-economic complexities of daily life in Caracas.
More concretely, these bands attain this objective through their performances of certain songs, a prime example being “4ta y 5ta”, a strong criticism to the fifth Bolivarian Republic established under Chávez with the promulgation of the fifth constitution in 1999. The main condemnation can be understood from the first eight verses: “Ayer era la 4ta y hoy es la 5ta / Las mismas acciones / Diferentes versiones.
Cientos de muertos / Cientos de presos / Gente jalabolas / Y gente inconforme”
(Tukuca Zakayama, 2016 – Track 05). The lyrics challenge the dominant paradigms of Chavismo, which had become firmly institutionalised by the government through a vast propaganda campaign. Despite the country’s radical change in its political
narrative which condemned the corruption and inefficiency of the previous neoliberal governments, the song depicts the unchanged realities of the country.
Figure 3.2. Tukuca Zakayama “Generalísimo del Siglo XXI” (source: Generalisimo Del Siglo XXI, By, 2018).
The album Generalísimo del Siglo XXI (see Figure 2.2), released in 2016, coincides with a series of other Venezuelan punk albums being released in other parts of Latin America. In fact, it is important to note that in the period revolving around Maduro’s election in April 2013 and a few years thereafter, new bands came to be created and old bands began to produce music again. The themes of many of these
groups focussed on the quotidian state of affairs, and others sought to condemn the cult of personality built around Hugo Chávez. Another challenge to the Bolivarian ideals stems from one of the bands that was forced to leave the country as a result of the economic crisis and a number of threats received through social media. The band’s name, Cadáveres Podridos, was inspired by the exposition of Chávez’s body in a glass casket following his death. In the words of Juan Pablo, “el muerto seguía gobernando”.
Consequently, this led to the production of a new album, Viva Nada (April 2019), produced from 2016 and released in April 2019. The album’s title is a mockery of the slogans of the Bolivarian Revolution: “Viva Chávez!”, “Viva el Comandante!”, and “Viva la Revolución Bolivariana!”. Such efforts clearly portray the countercultural aspect of punk, in expressing freedom of thought and challenging the entrenched paradigms of Venezuelan society.
“Y de hecho todos los temas que hay, hablan de eso. Cuando escuchas no se, La espiral del silencio, habla un poco de eso no, de todo lo que se estaba sintiendo en ese ambiente totalitario. La segunda muerte habla también de cierta decepción que sientes cuando vez que mucha gente que es afín al anarquismo, o cualquiera forma de pensar autónoma, se va a formar parte de un partido o a formar parte de algo de algún ente oficialista en cambio de un puesto de funcionario, o a cambio de dinero, o simplemente porque en verdad se lo están creyendo el cuento, ¿no? Y hay muchos temas en ese disco. Bueno, de hecho, todos hablan de eso” (Interview with Juan Pablo – 9/04/2021).
Juan Pablo’s experience extends further through the performances carried out with other punk and post-punk bands (intended as the musical genres that derived from punk in subsequent years), Doña Maldad and Mar de Rabia, whose themes also seek to raise awareness about the myths of Chavismo, and how vast swathes of the population were indoctrinated through this false narrative. As affirmed by Rafael Uzcátegui (director of the Human Rights NGO Provea in Caracas), the bands, and not just punk bands, that denounce the government in their songs expose themselves to governmental censorship and encounter serious difficulties in finding underground spaces for concerts and activities through which they can spread their message (interview with Rafael Uzcátegui – 25/04/2021). Moreover, in doing so they subject
themselves to reprisals from the state’s cultural managers and the Chavista crowds as well.
In sum, the argument that can be drawn from this chapter is how the nature of being punk changes according to the way each individual and band feel they are contributing to the country’s punk scene. These features range from political attitudes to countercultural attitudes, passing across musical production. These features come to develop in accordance to punks’ own set of beliefs that shape daily life in comparison to the rest of society. Punk performances can come to be understood as strictly interlinked with certain political ideologies and practices linked to social activism. As detailed previously, a number of bands such as Doña Maldad and Tukuca Zakayama seek to detach themselves from the country’s political sphere, as their thoughts and beliefs came to be established in accordance with a libertarian way of thinking, free from the oppression of political definition and with the goal of abrogating the innumerable forms of injustice and abuse in Venezuela.
This chapter presented a chronological account of the Venezuelan punk scene alongside several political, social, economic, and cultural developments. By shedding light on how the dominant paradigms of Chavismo came to be established, it is possible to understand the emergence of a polarized society which further affirmed itself across the country’s punk scene. A number of underground bands, in fact, were bought out by the government through a co-optation campaign which was also aimed at the underground scenes of the country. This was carried out in order to limit criticisms towards the government and the president while at the same time increasing the approval rate by donating resources for the development of the cultural sphere. As a countercultural movement, punk, however, had not disappeared, but went through a period of regression. Following Hugo Chávez’s death, newly-elected president Maduro saw his popular support decrease exponentially, coinciding with a rise in protest. Criticism spread throughout society and when the protests intensified especially after 2014, so too did the musical production of Venezuelan punk bands.