‘Patria y Vida’, The Anthem for Cuban Freedom

The authors and performers of the song ’Patria y Vida’. (Collage)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 25 December 2021 — Barely a week had passed since the premiere of the song Patria y Vida (Homeland and Life), in February, when these two words began to be used as a slogan by different opponents of the regime, inside and outside of Cuba.

Opposed to the Castroist “homeland or death”, the images extolling the blackness of five artists, some in exile –Yotuel Romero, the duo Gente de Zona, Descemer Bueno – and others on the island – Eliexer Márquez El Funky and Maykel Castillo Osorbo — united for the first time, the theme was a tribute to the San Isidro Movement — in the video clip its leader the artist Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara appears, wrapped in the flag that flew at the group’s headquarters when they gathered to demand the release of the rapper Denis Solís – but it also honored other protests, such as that of Luis Robles Elizastigui, the “young man with the placard,” and attacked the blatant dollarization of the economy.

It immediately went viral and, at the same time, put its protagonists in the crosshairs of State Security. The campaign against it included articles in the official press to discredit its creators and even a ridiculous “song war”, but above all it consisted of systematic harassment and repression against participating artists within the country.

On May 18, Osorbo was arrested and on July 11, Otero Alcántara was also; both today remain in maximum security prisons. El Funky had more luck: he was forced into exile in Miami.

None of this prevented Patria y Vida from accompanying the 11J [July 11] protests and it continued to resound loudly. On November 18, it won the two Latin Grammy Awards for which it was nominated, and on December 8, the lyrics of the song –signed, in addition to the performers, by the Spanish singer and dancer Beatriz Luengo – was immortalized in the Journal of Sessions of the United States Congress.

That day, on the stand, the Florida representative Mario Díaz-Balart highlighted “the importance of a song that has become an anthem for a movement and for so many Cubans who demand freedom on the Island” and demanded “that all political prisoners are released, that basic rights of expression, assembly and belief are respected, and free, fair and multi-party elections are scheduled.”

The announcement by Yotuel Romero and Beatriz Luengo of a documentary that will show the impact of the song on the fight for freedom in Cuba anticipates that the theme will not lose its validity in 2022. Former US President Barack Obama has chosen it as one of his songs of the year.


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