The anti-government protests which took place in Cuba in 2021 were hugely influenced by one song; “Patria y Vida” which translates as “Homeland and Life.”
A documentary now looks back at the role played in this movement by the song which is considered to be the soundtrack of the island’s biggest uprising.
“Patria y vida: the Power of Music” tells the story of the success and repercussions of the rap song of the same name, recorded in February 2021 between Cuba and Miami.
Director Beatriz Luengo said: “The reason why we did this documentary is because when we’ve been asked what is ‘Patria y vida’, it’s impossible to explain how a song can change a country’s history, can be such a phenomenon on social media, generate 300 million hashtags on TikTok, and can qualify as the ‘Sound of Liberty’ or the ‘most inspiring revolution of the century’.”
Luengo added that the rallies and protests were hugely significant for Cuba.
“The most important thing is that Cuban people took to the streets after 63 years without rallying, because protesting is prohibited by the Cuban constitution,” she explained.
“They lost fear on July 11th, 2021, and they got out shouting “Patria y vida” to ask for a change in their lives.”
Cuban authorities tried in vain to stop the song from being distributed; including temporarily shutting down internet access on the island.
Cuban rapper Yotuel Romero explained the significance of the song’s title.
“‘Patria y vida’ counters ‘Patria o Muerte’ (‘Homeland or death’). We changed the ‘or’ for a ‘and’ – The ‘or’ meant it’s either you or me, my beliefs or yours, your gender or mine, your ethnicity or mine.
“‘Patria y vida’ is you and me, your gender and mine, your ethnicity and mine, your difference and mine.”
The protests led to the arrest of one of its performers, Cuban rapper Maykel Osorbo, who was sentenced to nine years in prison for public order offences in June 2022.
One person was left dead, dozens injured and some 1,300 people were arrested, according to the Miami-based human rights organisation Cubalex.
According to official figures, nearly 500 demonstrators have been sentenced for their part in the protests, some to up to 25 years in prison.