April 23, 2021


A song asks Cubans to drop Castro's chant 'Homeland or Death.' The government is on edge.  (NORA GÁMEZ TORRES, FEBRUARY 23, 2021, Miami Herald)

During Cuba's so-called Special Period, the terrible economic crisis that followed the collapse of the Soviet Union, Willy Chirino's song "Ya viene llegando" became a hymn of hope for many Cubans who wanted change on the island.

It was common to walk in Havana and other cities -- there was almost no public transportation -- and hear the words, "It's coming," blaring from homes. At the time, Chirino, a Cuban-born musician based in Miami, hoped that the Fidel Castro government would meet the same fate as other communist regimes after the Berlin Wall fell. That did not happen, and many Cubans who challenged authorities by singing that change was imminent now live in the United States.

Castro never commented on the song. Neither did the official media.

Thirty years later, "Patria y Vida" ("Homeland and Life"), a new song with almost two million views on YouTube and featuring some of the most famous Cuban singers inside and outside the island, is challenging the government, this time by questioning Castro's revolutionary slogan, "Patria o Muerte" ("Homeland or Death").

"It's over. No more lies. My people ask for freedom. No more doctrines. Let's no longer shout Patria o Muerte, but Patria y Vida," reads the chorus of the song that comes in the wake of a nascent social movement led by artists on the island pressing for greater freedoms.

Yotuel Romero, a singer with the band Orishas and the brain behind the project, told the Miami Herald that the song is part of an "awakening of Cuban youth."

"It was important to tell the world that Cubans today, we want life, that the doctrine that came out in '59 belongs to that moment," Romero said in reference to the year Castro took power.

"With COVID, the fear of death has touched us very close," he added. "So the word is obsolete. When you say 'Homeland and Life,' you add, and that's what Cubans feel, that we can have both. The Cuba that 'Patria y Vida' talks about is a Cuba in which we all fit, whatever we think."

This time, the song appears to have made Cuban authorities so nervous that state media have launched a campaign to combat its message and discredit its authors.

Posted by at April 23, 2021 7:03 PM