The lyrics to the song “Patria y Vida”, released on 16 February 2021 by group of cuban artist created, a fuss with the Cuban government, as the music video denounces the political and economical situation of the island. It had more than 1 million views in 3 days and sent the government into a frenzy, with some officials going as far as to call the artists “mercenary”.
The song “Patria y Vida” (Fatherland and Life), released by Chancleta Records, was produced between Cuba and Miami. It is the product of a collaboration between various cuban artists, not all of whom are in Cuba. There are the island-based dissident rappers Maykel Osorbo and El Funky (who had to produce their parts in secret), and the exiled artists Gente de Zona, Descember Bueno and Yotuel Romero (lead singer of the group Orishas).
The hysterics surrounding this song are not just caused by the images shown in the video, which portray the contrast between the reality of cuban life (with food shortages, living conditions, repression, exile…) and the paradise sold to tourists, but also by the lyrics and the title of the song: “Patria y Vida”.
“Publicidad de un paraíso en Varadero / Mientras las madres lloran por sus hijos que se fueron”
What has most infuriated the government is the fact that the artists have changed the famous slogan used by Fidel Castro in the 60s: “Patria O Muerte”. A slogan that has been incessantly repeated in Cuba. A slogan you can find on billboards, newspapers and media still today. It once evoked the spirit of self sacrifice in defence of the revolution, but has since been void of its meaning, as the promises once made have remained unfulfilled.
No mas mentiras, mi pueblo pide libertad, no más doctrinas. Ya no gritemos Patria o Muerte sino Patria y Vida. Y empezar a construir lo que soñamos, lo que destruyeron con sus manos
This isn’t the first time that a song has been used to convey a message. In fact, the Cuban government itself for years has also used music to drive home it’s policies and world view. In this case, the song is the new salvo from the Movimiento San Isidro (MSI, a multi-disciplinary group of artist-activists). The MSI was created in 2018, when the Cuban government sought to enforce Decree 349, a law that would have given the Ministry of Culture the power to restrict cultural activity it did not approve of. The MSI has now become a platform for Cuban dissidents both within in and outside the country to protest state censorship of artistic works.
Izamos la bandera todavía la represión del régimen al día / Anamel y Ramón firme con su poesía / Omara Ruiz Urquiola dándonos aliento, de vida / Rompieron nuestra puerta, violaron nuestro templo / Y el mundo ‘tá consciente de que el movimiento San Isidro continúa puesto
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The song has become an anthem of hope and freedom, another form of protest by Cubans against the government, with the song’s title now being painted on chests and tattooed on bodies by Cubans all over the world.
Translated by Ludovica Sarti