Music for reflection: How a transplanted Venezuelan musician holds her country close

Verónica Calenda only needs a guitar and a notebook with blank pages to express the love she feels for her country, Venezuela. She is from Valencia — a city close to Caracas — and since she was little she showed interest in the arts, especially music.

“I wrote songs and hid them in my pillowcase,” she explains.

Three years ago, Calenda’s life changed drastically. Due to Venezuela’s current situation, her family decided to move to Quito, Ecuador.

At the beginning, Calenda had a hard time getting used to her surroundings.

A lot of had changed, from small things like getting used to a new type of slang and learning that her voice was considered loud by residents of Quito, to big things like not being able to get together with her family to prepare hallacas — a traditional Venezuelan dish — on a weekly basis.

Nevertheless, Calenda channeled her emotions through music and composed a six songs: “Lágrima de Sangre” (Blood Teardrop), “This Is My Home,” “There Is Hope,” “Humanidad” (Humanity), “I Wonder” and “Foot On The Moon.”

In most of her songs, Calenda sings about how she is hopeful to see a different Venezuela. Writing about it keeps her at peace.

“When you write music you feel free. It’s like telling a friend what you feel. You don’t feel bad anymore because you let go of what you were holding in,” Calenda says.

She explains the process of composing songs is much more than just venting her emotions; it is a process that helps her reflect on herself.

“Music makes you reflect. When you write something, you are aware that someone is going to listen to you. In the beginning you want to shout and vent what you feel, but then you see your own reflection in the lyrics and that makes you give the best of you,” she says.

Calenda mentions that many Venezuelan artists who have left the country also write about Venezuela, so she doesn’t feel alone.

On the other hand, Calenda found a second home in Ecuador, surrounded by Ecuadorians and Venezuelans who helped her adapt. She says her Ecuadorian friends make her feel like she’s at home, for which she is thankful.

“I have found people with good hearts. This is my second home. The window was closed and God opened the door for me and what was behind the door was the best thing that could’ve ever happened to me,” she says.

This Christmas, Calenda and her family will get together with Venezuelan friends in Quito and will celebrate in the traditional Venezuelan way: prepare hallacas and listen to Gaita zuliana, a style of Venezuelan folk music. They want to remember the way their culture celebrates the holiday.

“Between Venezuelans we understand each other,” says Calenda.

“We are a bunch of little ants that have changed nests, but even so, in the new nest we find each other, and that’s the most optimistic way in which we remember our lives back in Venezuela.”