Musical protests in Latin America where rhythm is still strong

Huma Siddiqui
Latin America, Musical protests in Latin America, Colombia, Ecuador Ravi Bangar, The Nights of the Pans, Cacerolazos

Latin America is presently witnessing a wave of political protests. A fire that began in Chile as a popular reaction against proposed anti-austerity measures has spread like wildfire across the Latin American continent and citizens of Bolivia, Colombia, and Brazil have found the strength to protest for their grievances taking a cue from Chile, say experts.

Talking about this unique style of protests, former ambassador of India to Colombia & Ecuador Ravi Bangar (Retd), says, "Cacerolazo or beating of pots and pans – The origins of this version of protests or support for protesters took place in France in the 1830s, at the beginning of the July Monarchy of France. According to Emmanuel Fureix, a historian, the protesters took from the tradition of Charivari the use of noise to express disapproval, and beat pans to make noise against the ruling politicians. This way of showing discontent became popular in 1832, taking place mainly at night."

In 1961, "The Nights of the Pans" were held in Algeria, during the Algerian War of Independence. There were thunderous displays of noise in cities, made with homemade pots, whistles, horns and the cry of "French Algeria", he adds.

Says the former envoy "In the following decades Cacerolazo was limited almost exclusively to South America, with Chile being the first country in the region. Subsequently, it has also been seen in several Latin American countries and Spain – where it is called Cacerolada."

According to Prof Aparaajita Pandey, Amity University, "While the protests in all countries are distinct from each other, and have begun due to specific and unique immediate causes, they tend to follow certain common features. Protests all over the countries are being led by frustrated citizens who are disillusioned with their governments; it is important to note that even though the political infrastructure across Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, and Chile vary greatly, all of them have somehow succeeded in dissatisfying their people in a spectacular fashion. For a Latin America that has had its fair share of autocratic dictators, killing squads, and IMF and the World Bank imposed financial sanctions, the economic slowdown coupled with the Lava Jato scandal and the subsequent reverberations have proven to be too much to handle."

As Latin Americans take to the streets, banging their pots and pans in a traditional form of protests, one can't help but notice the rhythmic beat to their demands. The Latin American protests have been facilitated by a culture of protest songs. The present anthem against the Colombian president Ivan Duque called, Duque Ciao may be an adaptation of an Old Italian anti-fascist song, but it resonates with the Latin America movement of protest music called- Nueva Cancion meaning a new song, observes Pandey.

Several new genres were born in the time, Canto Popular in Uruguay, Nueva Cancionero Argentino in Argentina and Nueva Trova emerged in Cuba. The songs became popular and soon a trend of such protest songs engulfed the continent and the videos of such musical protests from Chile and Colombia go viral; it can be seen that the Latin America rhythm is still strong.

In Venezuela, Cacerolazos returned to reappear in Venezuela in the 21st century, with the successor of President Rafael Caldera, Hugo Chávez, received throughout his government Cacerolazos. By the end of 2001, Cacerolazos against him was a daily affair, says Bangar.

Adding "In Colombia, Cacerolazos took place during the protest march called by the Women’s Council in 1992 against poor public services. Later port workers and the general public joined, in rejection of the privatization of the maritime terminal, high-cost common use commodities and the proposed increase in VAT."

Recently, these have been extensively witnessed during the rising tide of discontent against the ruling regimes Latin America – Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Bolivia, Ecuador and Colombia etc.