MEXICO – Last July, as thousands of people marched across Cuba to protest the communist regime, many shouted and sang the chorus: “Patria y vida!” or “Homeland and Life!”
The phrase is taken from the rap song of the same name, which has become an anthem for a growing movement of young people going online and on the streets to demand an end to political oppression and economic suffering.
The song, written by Jotuel Romero, Descemer Bueno, Michel Osorbo, Elisér “el Funky” Marquez Duani and reggaeton couple Gente de Zona, is nominated for two Latin Grammy Awards, including Song of the Year, and will be performed on Thursday’s show. night.
“This is the first Grammy for the people of Cuba, the first Grammy for freedom,” Romero said in a telephone interview from Miami. “These are the first Grammy awards nominated not by Yotuel and Gente Zona, but by patria y vida., this is Cuba. “
The song is a rare occasion for Cuban artists to directly take over the mode: Title is a twist on one of the most iconic slogans of the Cuban Revolution, patria o muerte., (Homeland or death), a phrase that Fidel Castro used often at the end of his speeches.
“It was the opposite of home or death – home and life,” Romero said. “I knew this phrase would generate a lot of controversy.”
And it sparked controversy.
After its release in February, the song was heavily criticized by statesmen such as President Miguel Diaz-Canel and former Minister of Culture Abel Prieto, who called the track a “musical pamphlet.” and wrote: “There is nothing sadder than a chorus of annexationists attacking their homeland.” on Twitter.
But official criticism did little to hinder the song’s popularity. After decades of isolation, Internet use in Cuba became widespread in 2018 – many young Cubans are now very active on social media, where the anthem is spreading like wildfire. The accompanying video has been viewed over 9 million times on YouTube.
The song’s release comes just months after hundreds of artists, intellectuals and others rallied in front of the Ministry of Culture in Havana to protest multiple recent arrests, including the arrest of rapper Denis Solis.
“This protest changed the perception of opposition in Cuba,” said Rafael Escalona, director of the Cuban music magazine AM: PM. “It was fertile ground to reap the benefits and compose a hymn of protest.”
On July 11, “Patria y Vida” turned into a rallying cry as Cuba witnessed the largest protests in decades, with Cubans protesting over power cuts, food and medicine shortages.
“This is my way of telling you that my people are crying and I can feel their voice,” the song says. “No more lies, my people are asking for freedom. There are no more doctrines, let us glorify not the homeland and death, but the homeland and life. “
Hundreds of people have been jailed since the July demonstrations, and at least 40 more were detained on Monday as the regime took steps to strangle another planned march.
The risks extended to the songwriters as well.
Although most of the artists who worked on the song were well known around the world before the track was released and lived outside Cuba, Michael Osorbo and El Funky still lived on the island: both were arrested earlier this year, and Osorbo remains in prison. Romero, who lives in Miami, said he could not return to the island for fear of arrest.
But despite the repression, Romero expressed confidence that the nascent movement, created by Cuban youth and featured on the soundtrack from Patria y Vida, was just beginning.
“This is no longer a movement, this is a generation. This is the patria y vida generation,“he said.” Generation patria y vida came to bury the patria o muerte generation… “
Carlos Melian Moreno reported from Santiago, Cuba.