this-isn’t-about-music,-it’s-about-‘freedom’:-why-songs-chanted-at-cuba-protests-matter

This isn’t about music, it’s about ‘freedom’: Why songs chanted at Cuba protests matter

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If you listen closely to protesters in Cuba and Florida, you can hear people chanting “patria y vida,” translating to “homeland and life.” The chants reclaim a popular slogan from the Cuban revolution, homeland or death.

Protests in Cuba have been ongoing for years but reemerged last week when thousands of Cubans marched to protest food and medicine shortages, power outages and some even calling for political change.

But where did the slogan “patria y vida” come from? Cuban reggaetón musicians Alexander Delgado and Randy Malcom of the duo Gente De Zona; Yotuel Romero, member of the Cuban band Orishas; and singer-songwriter Descemer Bueno.

The group collaborated to release a song and video titled “Patria Y Vida” in February and they are not the only artists releasing music in support of Cuba and the protesters.

Emilio Estefan, Cuban American music producer and businessman, produced a new song “Libertad” or “Freedom” in English. Estefan said the song, sung by artists Yailenys Pérez y Joncien, was created to shed light on the conditions in Cuba and support protesters.

“It’s more than just a song or lyrics, it’s an outcry and it’s all about freedom. Freedom for Cubans,” Estefan told USA TODAY.

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So what is the meaning behind these songs and why are protesters chanting them in the streets? Here’s a breakdown below.

‘Patria y Vida’

The song not only reclaims the Cuban revolution slogan homeland or death, it highlights the difficult conditions Cubans are currently living in. Cuban American and activist Angelique Diaz said the song represents a new generation of Cubans ready to fight back with lyrics such as:

“Patria y Vida” refutes the idea that Cuba is a “paradise” and addresses food shortages and poverty in the country. Varadero, is a popular tourist location, and Diaz said it’s often used to project a “pretty” image of life in Cuba, which isn’t accurate.

“In the past most images of Cuba showed the parts only open and given to tourists, it’s not the reality in Cuba. Food rations and poverty is,” Diaz told USA TODAY.

The song ends with the lyrics about those who were detained by the Cuban government, including Anamely Ramos and Omara Ruiz Urquiola. Ramos was detained and harassed by the government for writing poems demanding freedom for other detained, according to the International Service for Human Rights. While Urquiola was beaten and detained by police during a peaceful protest in Cuba, according to the ISHR.

The music video has garnered over 7 million views and continues to be chanted in protests both in Cuba and Florida.

‘Libertad’

Estefan in collaboration with the Foundation for Human Rights in Cuba, a nonprofit group, released the music video to Libertad Tuesday. However Estefan, born in Cuba, said they’ve been working on the video for months. In May, the video was shot in Cuba, with individual people capturing footage in secret to avoid repercussions from the government, Estefan told USA TODAY.

“For the first time in over 60 years, thanks to technology people are able to see what’s really happening in Cuba. So we knew now is the time to use this video to spread more support and awareness,” Estefan said. “The song is about freedom not politics.”

Throughout the song, images of Cuban people in their homes, in protests and fighting in the street are played. Lyrics mention silence is the “enemy of liberty” and “every human being deserves freedom.” The song also references the Cuban government using “force” to silence people.

The song includes voices shouting “libertad” and the names Pedro Luis Boitel and Orlando Zapata Tamayo. Both are Cuban activists went on hunger strikes and died during their imprisonments.

Estefan left Cuba when he was a teenager but said it’s difficult to watch the country where his relatives still live, suffer. The recent protests in Florida and Cuba pushed Estefan to advance the release of the music video. He said he hopes people watch the images, listen to the lyrics and help Cubans fight for freedom.

“I tell people in Cuba when people protest they don’t say I’m hungry, they say I want freedom. That’s why I wrote the song using that word. The word freedom is taken for granted in the United States,” Estefan said.

Follow Gabriela Miranda on Twitter: @itsgabbymiranda

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Patria Y Vida and Libertad become anthems of Florida, Cuba protests