People turn to salsa dancing to cope with crisis in Venezuela
By Toby Muse
Throughout Latin America, Venezuela is renowned for its love of salsa – the music, and the dance. With the country's economy in a downward spiral, a night of salsa dancing is one of the few ways Venezuelans can try to forget their problems. And in a deeply divided country, political differences can be forgotten for a moment as the bodies glide with the music.
"All of us who are black, white, rich, poor, we come together for the love of salsa," said Nico Monterola, a salsa musician.
Salsa clubs are scattered around Caracas. People come for the beats, the beer and the spectacle of world-class salsa dancers. Even here, the economic and political crisis can be difficult to forget – dozens of bills are needed just to pay for a few beers.
Heavily influenced by Puerto Rican and Cuban rhythms, salsa music exploded in the late 1960s New York. It swept the Spanish-speaking Caribbean: Colombia, the Dominican Republic, Cuba, and Venezuela. The music has become a language to express oneself.
"What hasn't been spoken of in salsa? It speaks of love, it speaks of hope, it speaks of the social extremes of crime. It speaks of greatness, dreams and that's us, the Caribbeans," said Alfredo Naranjo, a salsa musician.
In a studio, long-time friends Nico Monterola and Alfredo Naranjo are improvising. Politically, they're opposites: Monterola is a big supporter of the government of Nicolas Maduro, while Naranjo is less political. But they're united by salsa.
"Alfredo is a marvelous man. He's an example. We like each other. I think he has different political opinions, but it doesn't matter," said Monterola.
And for a moment, all that really matters is a great rhythm.