Patria y Vida

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In anticipation of the one year anniversary of the release of the Grammy award-winning song Patria y Vida, we pay tribute to the artists who were brave enough to say what needed to be said and take a look at what led us to this point. A moment in which the population has crossed a threshold and is setting the path to freedom.

Cuba has been hidden from the world and oppressed internally by an oppressive dictatorship for 63 years. The regime has effectively silenced a historically loud citizenry through the use of brutal violence and force. During the historic nationwide protests of July 11th, the citizenry chanted for “Libertad” or “Freedom”, “Down with the Dictatorship” and “Patria y Vida”. The regime’s response has included the calling for civil war to defend the revolution, brutal arrests, torture, and sham trials affecting more than 1,000 peaceful protestors, including minors under the age of 18, and resulting in sentences of up to 30 years.

In spite of the these harsh realities, the people in Cuba remain in a crisis and by using our collective voice we can make a difference in ending their struggles. The people in Cuba have lost their fear and only need people like you to care and amplify their voices.

Free Denis

Rapper and Activist Denis Solis

Rapper and Activist Denis Solis prior to his arrest in November 2020.

It all started in November of 2020 with the arbitrary arrest of rapper/activist Denis Solis. Denis, frequently harassed by Cuban police, filmed and live streamed the unwarranted entry of an officer in his home. The exchange went viral and for this, filming and sharing the exchange, Denis was subsequently arrested.

Free Cuba Fest

Meanwhile, in Miami, Florida, a city largely built on the sweat of the Cuban exile community, Cuban activists were gaining momentum with the increasing crisis on the ground. They organized the first ever Free Cuba Fest and during this event, Alexander Delgado, member of the group Gente de Zona, decided to take the first step towards freedom by loosing his fear of speaking out against the dictatorship. He did just that, to cheers from adoring fans, as he was exiting the stage, he called out “Libertad para Cuba, Abajo la Dictadura” or “Freedom for Cuba, Down with the Dictatorship”.

The power of speaking out and losing fear of the dictatorship cannot be underestimated and is the first step for the people of Cuba on our trajectory for reclaiming freedom.

Movimiento San Isidro 

The Movimiento San Isidro (MSI) is an artist collective formed in 2019. Denis Solis was a close friend of many of the members. When he was arrested, several members of the MSI group rallied for his freedom under the hashtag #FreeDenis and began a hunger (and some also a thirst) strike.

As tensions and international pressure mounted, on Thanksgiving eve, on November 26, 2020, Cuban secret police, dressed as doctors, stormed the MSI headquarters, the private home of Luis Manuel Otero Alcantara and disappeared the group on the strike. The regime shut off internet and cell phone traffic, shortly before raiding the home. Footage of the raid was later uploaded on Facebook for the world to see.

The following day, MSI members decided to visit the Ministry of Culture to demand the release of their friends who were taken in the middle of the night. Within a few hours hundreds of people joined the artists in a peaceful protest demanding the release of their friends. Footage of that night can be viewed here and under the hashtag #27N

The dictatorship was prepared for a major crackdown, but opted for a negotiated solution to avoid the spectacle, but then reneged. Reuters reported that “[t]he protest ended before dawn on Saturday only after officials met with 30 of the demonstrators and agreed to continue talking and to urgently review the case of a detained member of the San Isidro crew and a rapper sentenced this month to eight months in jail on charges of contempt. It also agreed to ensure independent artists in the future were not harassed.”

Eventually, the MSI members detained were released.

Patria y Vida

Throughout the holidays and into 2021, the crisis in Cuba deepened. People were suffering from Covid, food shortages, and repression. With little recourse, people faced long crowed lines to arrive to empty shelves after hours of waiting for the most basic of food items.

All the while, international superstars Gente de Zona, Yotuel, and singer-songwriter Descemer Bueno were working on the launch of a song to talk about the crisis and 62 years of suffering of their people. They brought MSI member Maykel Osboro (Castillo) and Rapper Eliécer “el Funky” Márquez into the fold (with an appearance by Luis Manuel Otero Alcantara) and secretly filmed the music video for what would become the two time grammy award winning Patria y Vida song and anthem for the Cuban people. The song is full of symbolism and outright dissent to the current conditions faced by people on the island. “We no longer shout, ‘Motherland or death,’ but ‘homeland and life,’” a direct reference to the anachronistic Communist slogan of Motherland and Death or Patria o Muerte.

The Song gains traction

The song was released on February 16, 2021 and immediately went viral garnering more than 10M views on Youtube within the year. The song encapsulates the truth of what the population has been feeling for years and sheds light on what suffering continues, despite the narrative of the Cuban propaganda machine. The truth has been revealed and propelled to the world stage. The regime immediately created their own counter protest song which had little support and even less views.

Defiance in response to the release of Osorbo after the people intervened to prevent his arrest.

Videos of people singing or playing Patria y Vida in Cuba began to come to the surface. On the afternoon of April 4, 2021 after rallying the neighborhood to sing Patria y Vida, police tried to arbitrarily arrest rapper Osorbo but the people on the streets prevented the arrest. The iconic image of Osorbo raising his fist in defiance went viral.

July 11th

Sunday, July 11, 2021 was a turning point in the history of Cuba. For 62 years nationwide protests had not occurred. Supported by technology, the news of the city of Santiago de los Baños in the streets gave way to more than 50 cities and town joining the protests and calling for Libertad, Abajo la Dictadura, and of course Patria y Vida. Even members of the military in Santiago de Cuba were recorded singing the anthem. The regime regrouped and the protests and the protesters were quelled within days.

One Year On 

Since the historic protests of July 11th, hundreds of protests have continued to take place. The people of Cuba have suffered long enough. Patria y Vida won two Grammys for its impact on the island and the world over. In their song they predict the end of the dictatorship in the year 2022.

We work towards garnering the solidarity of the international community and freedom lovers across the world while mobilizing the people in Cuba to peacefully demand a change. So far 22 countries have sided with the Cuban people, but we need more, and we need YOUR help in ending the tyranny.

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