Inspired by Ukraine, Venezuelan Protesters Create Shields With Their Own Symbols

Screenshot from the YouTube video by an user from the “Dólar Today” opposition media.

A recurring scene of the unrest happening in Venezuela is protesters protecting themselves with homemade shields painted with varying symbols and messages.

Even in the US city of Miami, someone placed one of these shields on the statue of Simón Bolívar, the national hero of Venezuela, as an artistic statement of protest.

The inspiration for the shields came from the 2014 Euromaidan movement in Ukraine, as told in the “Winter of Fire” documentary by the Russian director Evgeny Afineevsky. According to the Argentine journalist Viridiana Ramírez, the documentary has recently been screened in different public spaces in Caracas.

Online news channel Vivo Play reported on these shields and interviewed semiotics professor Humberto Valdivieso to understand their messages. Valdivieso described two types of shields: a “face” shield that shows the ideals that protesters stand for and a “mirror” shield that presents images of protesters’ opponents. The shields also carry religious symbols, which means that they're supposed to protect those using them not only with the material they're made of but also through divine protection. There are symbols specific to Venezuelan culture as well as symbols that are more transcendental:

…En las manifestaciones ocurridas en Venezuela desde el 1º de abril se han hecho presentes lo que [Valdivieso] califica como “escudos rostro” y “escudos espejo”. Los escudos rostro son aquellos ideales por los cuales los manifestantes luchan y es la representación del individuo que lo sujeta y del grupo al que defiende como una especie de máscara. Estos son los escudos que tienen mensajes lingüísticos como “democracia” “resistencia” y “libertad” “justicia” y “paz”. También lo son los que tienen las imágenes de la Constitución, la cruz de los templarios, a Simón Bolívar, imágenes religiosas, la bandera de Venezuela tradicional [con siete estrellas y no ocho como fuera dispuesto por el ex-presidente Hugo Chávez] y el negro como señal de luto.

… The shields that [Valdivieso] describes as “face shields” and “mirror shields” have been used in the demonstrations that have taken place in Venezuela since April 1. The shield represents both the individual holding it and the group that it’s defending. These are the shields with linguistic messages like “democracy”, “resistance” and “freedom”, “justice” and “peace”. So are those shields that have images of the Constitution, the Templars’ Cross, Simón Bolívar, religious images, the traditional Venezuelan flag [with seven stars and not eight, as mandated by former President Hugo Chávez] and black as a sign of mourning.

And he continued:

En el caso de los “escudos espejo”, son los que tienen la intención de devolverle su imagen el contrincante con el fin de neutralizarlo. Estos son los escudos con las imágenes del presidente Nicolás Maduro, el diputado Diosdado Cabello el ministro Vladimir Padrino López, entre otros representantes del gobierno [y] que suelen ir en forma de sátira y acompañados con mensajes ofensivos.

The “mirror shields” are those that intend to reflect back the image of the opponent in order to neutralize it. These are the shields with the images of President Nicolas Maduro, Deputy Diosdado Cabello, Minister Vladimir Padrino López, among other representatives of the government [and] that are usually presented as satire and accompanied by offensive messages.

The images of these shields have also been widely shared on social media. On Instagram, graphic journalists and professional photographers such as Issac Paniza, Rafael Hernández Marcano and Jairo Gudino have shared high-impact images that allow for a close-up view of the shields’ symbols.

As mentioned before, some shields display images of religious protection which are present in the Venezuelan Catholic traditions, such as invocations of the Virgin Mary and the image of Jesus Christ, as seen in the center of the following photo. To the left in the image in the tweet below, the Divine Shepherd is represented, and to the right is the Virgin of Coromoto, patroness of Venezuela:

Photo mixing religion and resistance in #Venezuela on the shields painted with images of the Virgins and Jesus.

Other invocations of the Virgin Mary seen in this tweet show other Virgins, patrons of other Venezuelan states:

The shields donated to the resistance today. #Venezuela #15May #shields

Other photos show the “mirror shields” with images of the main representatives of the national government:

VERY GOOD! The new shields of the Resistance which will give nightmares to the GNB [Guardia Nacional Bolivariana, the Bolivarian National Guard of Venezuela] – Resistance Venezuela

Behind the shields of resistance: This is how young protesters defend themselves in Venezuela (VIDEO)

These are the shields which protect “The Resistance” from the brutal repression by the police of Maduro

Beyond the symbolism of the images on the front of the shields, a video shared by YouTube user Andrés Gerlotti shows how the protest is seen from behind the shields:

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