14ymedio, Juan Diego Rodríguez, Havana, 12 February 2022 — A large police deployment prevent passage through the corner of Gervasio and Enrique Barnet (Estrella) streets, in Central Havana, after the discovery this Saturday morning of a huge sign painted on the asphalt with the phrase “Patria y Vida” [Homeland and Life]. The surrounding area has now been occupied by police officers and State Security agents.
“When the day dawned, the graffiti was already there, so it seems that they painted it in the night,” a resident of the neighborhood, who laments the police operation in the area, tells 14ymedio. “They don’t let anyone pass, I could see it because I said I was going to the agro-market that is a few meters from there and I even had to buy some tomatoes as an excuse.”
“They’ve been crazy since they arrived, but it’s going to be hard for them to erase that because it’s done with a red paint that looks like oil and the letters are quite big,” details the nearby resident. “People climb on the roofs to see it because there is no one passing by on the street.”
Around the corner, in addition to the police patrols, there is also a Crime Lab vehicle, several individuals dressed in civilian clothes with all the signs of being from State Security and also a deployment of the so-called “factors”: militants of the Communist Party and members of the Committees for the Defense of the Revolution in the area.
“This neighborhood is going through a very bad time, so the strange thing is that they don’t paint something like this every day,” details a neighbor. “Here people are living with many needs and food is very expensive. Young people can’t take it anymore.”
Shortly after noon the sign had been removed and some dirt taken from the rubble of a nearby hydraulic repair had also been spread over the area. The uniformed police had withdrawn, but in the surroundings there were some individuals dressed in civilian clothes that the neighbors pointed out as being from the political police.
“Surely they have stayed in case the one who painted the sign returns to the place,” said a young man from the neighborhood. “We will have to be attentive to social networks to see the photos that are going to come out because many people took out their mobiles from the balconies and it is very likely that whoever wrote it also took a photo and published it.”
The appearance of the phrase occurs just in the days when the song Patria y Vida is celebrating one year of its release. In these twelve months, the musical theme has become a hymn of desire for democratic change on the Island and has been harshly lambasted by the ruling party.
Postings with phrases against the government, and especially against Miguel Díaz-Canel, are becoming more and more frequent on Cuban streets. Not a day goes by without the Cuban ruler being the target of a meme, a mockery, a joke or a graffiti.
A report from the Cuban Conflict Observatory detailed that last January Cubans demonstrated above all in “individual or small group actions,” such as painting graffiti and posters, holding masses or transmitting videos and photos on social networks. This strategy has the objective, adds the organization, of continuing to have “visibility and impact,” but limiting “the risk of its executors in the face of repression.”
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