Photo: Havana (From Britainnica) By Bill Chappell, NPR | Cuba is suffering through a summer of dire shortages, from food and electricity to medicine. Fed-up Cubans are taking to the streets in unprecedented protests – and they’re voicing their outrage through a song called Patria y Vida – homeland and life.
The slogan is a spin on the communist regime’s decades-old slogan of “patria o muerte” — homeland or death. In strong terms, the song accuses the government of destroying the quality of life in Cuba, a message that quickly found traction with protesters who are demanding change.
“No more lies. My people demand freedom. No more doctrines!” the song says. It calls for people to shout “patria y vida … and start building what we dreamed of/ what they destroyed with their hands.”
The viral hit has become a political slogan
Patria y Vida has been a phenomenon since its release this year. The song is a collaboration between a group of Afro-Cuban reggaeton and hip-hop stars based in Miami, such as Yotuel Romero and Alexander Delgado, along with rappers Maykel Osorbo and El Funky, who live in Cuba. A YouTube video of the song has been viewed nearly 6 million times.
When the single was released, Romero, who is part of the group Orishas, said that for him, the song was motivated by a look back at Cuba’s long history.
“Before the revolution, we had a beautiful Havana; now we have ruins,” he told Billboard in February. “From that point on, I said, ‘I’m not going to be quiet anymore.’ ”
Where the original Castro-era slogan was a call to arms for people to stand against outside influence, the new slogan tells people to hit the streets and take back their country.
“It’s over now! And we’re not afraid,” the song declares.
Patria y Vida quickly became an anthem. When large protests erupted in April, NPR’s Carrie Kahn declared it “astonishing” and a sign of “a growing movement challenging the regime like we haven’t seen in decades.”
After the song’s release, Cuban authorities arrested Osorbo. His supporters have submitted complaints to the United Nations over his treatment, saying that the government is persecuting him for expressing his views and for helping create the song.
The protests have been some of Cuba’s largest
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Why is Cuba suffering?
There are several main reasons, including U.S. economic sanctions that were tightened under former President Donald Trump and the pandemic’s toll on the island’s economy and infrastructure. Cuba is also getting less economic help from one of its main allies, Venezuela.
“The government is in debt and has no money,” Torres said. “So the population has been enduring severe scarcities of food and medicine.”
Many are also angry and frustrated by Cuba’s policy of selling food in U.S dollars — which most of the country’s people don’t earn.
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The Cuban government is blaming the U.S.
Granma, the Communist Party newspaper, blames the protests on “annexationist interests, paid and directed by the United States.”
Díaz-Canel has said Cuba is facing difficulties that it knew were coming when the U.S. put tight economic sanctions on the country. And while the pandemic has made the situation worse, the president said every country in the world is being forced to cope with the coronavirus.
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The U.S. stance
President Biden said he strongly supports the protesters.
“The Cuban people are demanding their freedom from an authoritarian regime,” Biden said during a White House event Monday. “I don’t think we’ve seen anything like these protests in a long, long time if, quite frankly, ever.”
Biden added, “The U.S. stands firmly with the people of Cuba as they assert their universal rights. And we call on the government of Cuba to refrain from violence in their attempt to silence the voices of the people of Cuba.”
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