Fourteen years haven’t been enough time to diminish what Adriana Acosta feels for Venezuela – the country she left behind. The same goes for Jorge Glem, a musician who carries the South American country wherever he goes. However, as they have made their way to New York, they have built a new community – a home away from home.
As food and medicine shortages, political instability, and an escalating financial crisis change the face of Venezuela, many have fled the South American country for security and better opportunities. In 2016, about 27,000 Venezuelans sought asylum across the world. But by mid-2017, that number had nearly doubled, with 50,000 applying for the protection, according to The UN Refugee Agency’s UNHCR.
With migration ramping up in the last few years, thousands of Venezuelans have begun to make their mark in New York. But even 2,412 miles away from their native countries, they remain connected to their culture. A few times in 2017, Venezuelan ex-pats in New York have organized marches and came together to protest Nicolas Maduros’ government. Between calling out the government for the number of deaths at Venezuelan protests to criticism of Maduro for stripping parliament of its power, they have relied on their New York community of Venezuelans to push forward.
A protest organized in April 2017 by the Venezuelan community in New York against President Nicolas Maduro’s measure to concede the duties of parliament to the executive branch in March. Despite the months-long protests carried out in Venezuela and across the world, the government eliminated the parliament and installed a constituent assembly to rewrite the constitution. Photo by Mariana Vincenti for Remezcla
Throughout 2017, we photographed and followed a few of them to learn how they built a new home in New York.
For musician Jorge Glem, going from Venezuela to New York came with complications. He traded his reputation as a musician in Venezuela for the anonymity of NYC. With performances in subway corridors and at a few small stages in Queens and Brooklyn, he shares the music and culture of his homeland with a diverse audience. Little by little, he spreads the country’s traditional music beyond its borders, introducing more people to the cuatro.
One of his goals is to change outsiders’ perception of Venezuelans – something he believes he can do with music, a powerful tool for social change.
Jorge Glem playing the cuatro at a protest New York’s Venezuelan community organized. Photo by Mariana Vincenti for Remezcla
Erick Rozo, an activist forced to leave Venezuela because of his political inclinations, similarly found it challenging to adjust. Watching his fellow Venezuelans fight for their rights from afar proved difficult for him, which is why he once again leapt into activism. Not only did he help organize a May protest, Rozo – who carried a sign that read “assassinated” to draw attention to those killed in the midst of violent protests back in Venezuela – led the demonstrators down the streets of New York.
For others, adapting came easier. Multidisciplinary artist and lawyer Juan Landaeta understood what uprooting his life entailed. He believed the key was to take in this new culture, without ever forgetting his roots. As he leads a different life in New York, he has made sure to remain politically engaged. One way he’s accomplished this is by using his talents to uplift his community. He wrote the lyrics to “Soy lo que decido,” a song that pays tribute to the protesters who have fought for their rights in Venezuela.
Adriana Acosta and a large group of volunteers organized an election to vote on the rewriting of the constitution that Nicolas Maduro proposed. They elections took place in Connecticut, New Jersey, and New York. Around 14,000 people voted. Photo by Mariana Vincenti for Remezcla
Unlike someone like Rozo, who fled in recent years, Adriana Acosta hasn’t lived in Venezuela for more than a decade. But her story is proof that time can’t sever her ties to her native country. Rozo runs all communications for the Movimiento Libertador, a movement organized by New York’s Venezuelan community. (Erick is also a leader in the movement.) Through this role, she develops strategies to help Venezuelans around the world. Activism takes up a chunk of her time, something she has to balance with her job at The New York Times, where she works as an audience analyst.
Though their circumstances differ, they all have something in common: They fled Venezuela seeking a better future. Despite the path their lives take, in everything they do – write poetry or play notes in a busy subway station – Venezuela is and will always be present in their every move.
Erick Rozo, an organizer of the protest, was one of the original members of the opposition party Voluntad Popular but after the protests of 2014 had to flee the country because of the threats he received after Leopoldo Lopez, the leader of the party, and other members were incarcerated and accused of treason.Rozo leads protesters from Union Square to Washington Square Park in May 2017. Demonstrators rallied to object the violence that occurred during a protest in Venezuela. Photo by Mariana Vincenti for Remezcla
In Washington Square Park, demonstrators honor the Venezuelan protesters who have died. Photo by Mariana Vincenti for Remezcla
A kid places flowers in the chalk outlines that represent those killed while protesting in Venezuela in 2017. By the end of 2017, an estimated 125 people were killed during anti-government protests. Photo by Mariana Vincenti for Remezcla
Niurka Melendez addresses those who lost their sons and daughters in a 2017 protest. Photo by Mariana Vincenti for Remezcla
A mother voting with her baby in Harlem, New York in July 2017. Photo by Mariana Vincenti for Remezcla
Amy Goodman is present during the New York elections. Photo by Mariana Vincenti for Remezcla
A woman casts her vote at an Upper West Side polling station in New York City. Photo by Mariana Vincenti for Remezcla
Venezuelans vote on Maduro’s proposal to rewrite the constitution. Photo by Mariana Vincenti for Remezcla
Ballots filled out by Venezuelan voters in New York. Photo by Mariana Vincenti for Remezcla
Adriana Acosta moved to the states 14 years ago, and now is in charge of communications at the Movimiento Libertador developing activism strategies to help Venezuelans inside and outside the country. She poses in front of The New York Times building, where she works in audience development. Photo by Mariana Vincenti for Remezcla
Adriana Acosta and Erick Rozo discuss the importance of taking action to help Venezuelan immigrants in the New York area adapt to the city. Photo by Mariana Vincenti for Remezcla
Jorge Glem is a Venezuelan musician who plays the cuatro, a traditional Venezuelan instrument. Glem plays different genres of music, including jazz, rock, and bluegrass. Photo by Mariana Vincenti for Remezcla
Jorge Glem playing cuatro in Grand Central Station. Glem’s widely known in Venezuela for his musical skills and talent. Photo by Mariana Vincenti for Remezcla
Jorge Glem traded the spotlight in Venezuela for New York’s subway stations in order to follow his dream of bringing the cuatro to new spaces. Photo by Mariana Vincenti for Remezcla
Juan Landaeta organized the “Music at the River” event at Pier 45 in Chelsea, where Jorge Glem played. Photo by Mariana Vincenti for Remezcla
Juan Landaeta is writer, musician, and painter. He wrote the lyrics to “Soy lo que decido” a song that honors the protesters who have fought for freedom of choice, thought and expression in Venezuela. Photo by Mariana Vincenti for Remezcla
Jorge Glem and his colleague Cesar Orozco play at Waffles & Dinges in Chelsea. They play a fusion of jazz and Venezuelan traditional music. Photo by Mariana Vincenti for Remezcla
Juan Landaeta at his office, showing part of his recent series of paintings called Jardin Desierto. Photo by Mariana Vincenti for Remezcla