For more than 60 days, Venezuelans have taken to the streets to protest Nicolas Maduro’s government. As inflation and food shortages wrack the country, many have pushed for the ousting of Maduro – who the opposition has labeled a dictator – only to find that the government has blocked attempts to remove him from power. On March 29, the Venezuelan Supreme Court disbanded the parliament, which gave Maduro’s party further control of the government. Though the court’s decision didn’t stand, protests had broken out by that point. With the demonstrations showing no signs of slowing down, Maduro has enlisted the armed forces to quell the opposition. As a result, more than 60 have been killed. Amid rising tensions and heartbreaking stories, stands a 23-year-old man who is spreading hope with his violin.
Wuilly Arteaga plays his violin at the protests that have taken over the country – even as tear gas envelops him, he keeps playing. As the Associated Press notes, Arteaga has become “a symbol of peaceful protest.” When he plays, he sparks something in both sides. “When I play for the national guard, some of them listen to me, some of them cry,” he said. “And when I play for the protesters, it gives them motivation to keep going. I know my music creates a climate of peace, which is why I’ll continue playing on the streets of Venezuela.”
Almost two weeks ago, the self-taught musician’s run almost came to an end when a guardsman on a motorcycle broke the violin. A video of him crying over his battered instrument went viral. People, including Shakira, began sending him violins and donating money. Arteaga became popular after the death of a teenage violinist who belonged to El Sistema – an orchestra network that Wuilly played with. Arteaga, along with other musicians, are providing so uplifting in a space that’s anything but, and along the way he’s also inspiring Venezuelans.
“He’s a hero,” Paolo Lena, a businessman who donated a violin to Arteaga, said. “He’s putting forward his face for lots of people who are afraid to protest.”