‘Patria y Vida’ — Homeland and Life — Watchwords in Cuba’s Protests

CARTAGENA, Colombia — “Patria y Vida.” Homeland and Life.

That chant has echoed this week as protesters took to the streets of Cuba in the largest anti-government demonstrations the Caribbean island had seen in a long time.

The phrases are the brainchild of the San Isidro Movement, a small group of grass-roots artists that fashioned in 2018 to push again in opposition to censorship by Cuba’s communist authorities. And they’re an inversion of the phrase “Patria o muerte” — “homeland or death” — which has been embedded in Cuban tradition for many years. “Patria o muerte” was repeated usually by Fidel Castro, is graffitied on partitions in Havana, and emblazoned on cash.

“It’s been a very symbolic narrative used by the government since the revolution, saying you need to sacrifice everything for your country,” mentioned Erika Guevara Rosas, Americas director of Amnesty International. “It is a propaganda that continues to be used by the government.”

Members of the dissident motion performed off these phrases in a rap tune, “Patria y Vida,” earlier this yr. The tune was created by the Cuban rapper Yotuel, the singer Descemer Bueno, the reggaeton group Gente de Zona, and different Cuban artists like Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara, Maykel Osorbo and DJ El Funky.

In a music video, Yotuel has the phrases painted on his chest in capital letters whereas Gente de Zona sing: “Now we don’t yell ‘Patria o Muerte,’ we yell “Patria y Vida.”

The tune exploded in the island nation, seeming to permeate the final consciousness of Cubans in the identical manner “Patria o Muerte” as soon as did.

“This song has turned into a symbol of the movement, into a symbol of freedom for Cubans who are tired, who want change,” D.J. Eliecer Márquez Duany, or El Funky, mentioned in an interview.

Mr. Márquez Duany mentioned listening to the tune because it rippled throughout the nation, and its lyrics chanted in the streets of Havana, gave a sense of hope.

The protests that erupted on Sunday had been spurred by the financial disaster attributable to the pandemic, shortages in fundamental items and clampdowns on civil liberties. Protesters have known as for President Miguel Diaz-Canel, who took the reins of Cuba in 2018, to step down.

Mrs. Guevara Rosas of Amnesty International mentioned the lyrics of the tune grew to become emblematic in the protests as a result of they had been created by “ordinary people” who characterize traditionally marginalized communities.

“It’s a movement challenging power, while not seeking political advantage,” she mentioned.

Mr. Márquez Duany mentioned he hoped the phrases spark change.

“We need to be heard, we need the right to express our frustrations,” he mentioned. “Cuba won't take it anymore.”