‘Patria y Vida’: How a Cuban rap song became a protest anthem.


MEXICO CITY — As 1000’s marched throughout Cuba final July in an astonishing protest towards the Communist regime, many shouted and sang a frequent chorus: “Patria y vida!” or “Homeland and life!”

The phrase comes from a rap song of the identical title, which has become an anthem for a burgeoning motion of younger folks taking to the web and to the streets, demanding an finish to political oppression and financial distress.

The song, written by Yotuel Romero, Descemer Bueno, Maykel Osorbo, Eliecer “el Funky” Márquez Duany and the reggaeton pair Gente de Zona, is nominated for two Latin Grammys, together with song of the 12 months, and might be carried out on the present Thursday evening.

“These are the primary Grammy Awards for the folks of Cuba, the primary Grammys for freedom,” Romero stated in a cellphone interview from Miami. “These are the primary Grammys the place it’s not Yotuel nor Gente Zona which are nominated, it’s patria y vida, it’s Cuba.”

The song is a uncommon occasion of Cuban artists instantly taking over the regime: The title is a twist on one of the crucial iconic slogans of the Cuban revolution, patria o muerte, (homeland or loss of life), a phrase that Fidel Castro typically used to finish his speeches.

“It was the antithesis of homeland or loss of life — homeland and life,” Romero stated. “I knew that phrase was going to deliver a lot of controversy.”

And generate controversy it did.

After it was launched in February, the song was closely criticized by authorities figures like President Miguel Díaz-Canel and former tradition minister Abel Prieto, who known as the observe a “musical pamphlet.” and wrote, “There’s nothing extra unhappy than a refrain of annexationists attacking their homeland” on Twitter.

However the official criticism did little to stem the song’s reputation. After a long time of isolation, web use became widespread in Cuba in 2018 — many younger Cubans are actually extremely energetic on social media, the place the anthem unfold like wildfire. The accompanying video has been seen greater than 9 million occasions on YouTube.

The song’s launch got here simply a few months after a whole lot of artists, intellectuals and others demonstrated outdoors the Ministry of Tradition in Havana to protest a slew of latest arrests, together with that of the rapper Denis Solís.

“That protest remodeled the narrative of the opposition in Cuba,” stated Rafael Escalona, the director of the Cuban music journal AM:PM. “There was fertile floor for somebody to reap the fruits and create a protest anthem.”

On July 11, “Patria y Vida” was remodeled into a rallying cry, when Cuba witnessed its largest protests in decades, with Cubans protesting over energy outages, meals shortages and a lack of medicines.

“That is my method of telling you, my individuals are crying out and I really feel their voice,” the song says. “No extra lies, my folks ask for freedom. No extra doctrines, let’s not sing of homeland or loss of life however homeland and life.”

A whole lot of individuals have been jailed after the July demonstrations, and no less than 40 extra were detained on Monday because the regime moved to stifle one other deliberate march.

The dangers prolonged to the songwriters too.

Whereas many of the artists who collaborated on the song have been well-known internationally earlier than the observe’s launch and have been additionally residing outdoors of Cuba, Maykel Osorbo and El Funky nonetheless lived on the island: Each have been arrested earlier this 12 months, and Osorbo stays in jail. Romero, who lives in Miami, stated that he can’t return to the island for concern of arrest.

However regardless of the crackdown, Romero stated he’s assured that the rising motion fomented by Cuba’s youth and given a soundtrack by “Patria y Vida” is simply simply getting began.

“That is not a motion, it’s era. It’s the era patria y vida,” he stated. “The era patria y vida has come to bury the era patria o muerte.”

Carlos Melián Moreno contributed reporting from Santiago, Cuba.





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