Patria o muerte (translated homeland or death) is a saying that was born in communist, revolutionary times in Cuba. For over six decades, the authoritarian regime on this Caribbean island has held a firm hand over its citizens which has resulted in many people looking to other countries for a more positive life or being exiled for their words or actions.
Many artists have faced severe oppression by the regime in recent years but that does not stop them from using their voices and talents to try to bring attention to the tyranny their people face on a daily basis.
Since its release in February, the rap song Patria y Vida, has accumulated over 9 million views on YouTube and become somewhat of an anthem for people in Cuba and all over Latin America. The rap hit was recorded in Miami (the home to an enormous exiled Cuban population), by a group of artists, some of whom are currently living in exile.
The song title is a more positive take on the before mention saying and part of its lyrics read: “We are artists, we are sensitivity/The true story, not the wrong one/We are the dignity of a whole people trampled on/At gunpoint and with words that are still nothing”.
The song has helped motivate the Cuban people to stand up and raise their voices for a more equal and just society. In an unprecedented event in July this year, great masses of people took to the streets in protest, an collective act that was not possible in past years.
The song also pays tribute to the San Isidro movement, a response to state censorship of artistic works: “They broke our door/they violated our temple/and the world is aware that the San Isidro Movement is still in position”. The current president has called this movement (as well as the rap song) unpatriotic and for it to be crushed.
Now, as fuel to protest fire, Patria y Vida has been nominated for a Latin Grammy award, an achievement that is sure to help keep the torch of protest going for some time (Update: on Thursday night the song won Song of the Year at the Latin Grammy Awards!).