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


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.

Last week’s protests:Demonstrators around the world show solidarity with anti-government protesters in Cuba

Miami shows support:Miami rally supports protests in Cuba

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:

No more lies, My people call for freedom
No more doctrines, we no longer shout homeland or death, homeland and life instead
And start building what we’ve dreamed of
What they destroyed with their hands

“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.

Everything has changed, nothing is the same
Between you and me there is an abyss
Advertising a paradise in Varadero
While mothers cry for their children who’ve gone

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.

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