Fidel Castro, the communist leader and revolutionary dictator who ruled Cuba for more than half a century, was known for his addresses to the nation. They were often passionate, lengthy and frequently ended with the nationalistic phrase, "patria o muerte" -- "homeland or death."
Five years after Castro's death, unprecedented anti-government protests have erupted across the island and a hip-hop song that transposes the authoritarian leader's famous catchphrase became the anthem of the movement.
Instead of "homeland or death," the song is titled, "Patria y vida," which means "homeland and life."
Behind the lyrics
"Patria y vida," is a Spanish hip-hop song that was nominated last week for "song of the year" at the Latin Grammys. Amid protests in Cuba in July, the song went viral, becoming a rallying cry for voices of dissent within the island and the hashtag of SOS Cuba -- an international movement advocating for the Cuban people.
Yamil Lage/AFP via Getty Images, FILE
Singer-songwriter Descemer Bueno, one of the artists featured in the song, reflected on the meaning of the phrase in an interview with ABC News that was translated from Spanish to English, and said that the artists wanted to strike an optimistic tone.
"I think that's the biggest significance of these two words together -- 'Homeland,' which is our home, which makes our hearts beat -- because Cubans are very patriotic -- and 'life,' which is what we want for the future," the Grammy-winning artist who is known for hits like "Bailando," said.
"We want to have medicine for our children. We want to have hospitals. We want to continue to have free schools without having to pay with our lives," he added. "That is why we want positivity. We want that great altruism, that great Cuban culture, to be allowed to live."
According to Maria Isabel Alfonso, professor of Cuban literature and culture at St. Joseph's College, a message of "hope and rebirth" is appealing to many young Cubans because they are "tired of the old rhetoric."
"People don't want to be dying anymore. They want to live," she said.
A fight for artistic expression
"Patria y vida" is a collaboration between Cuban musicians based in Miami and Cuba.
Along with Bueno, it features Yotuel Romero, a member of the groundbreaking Havana hip-hop group Orishas; Alexander Delgado and Randy Malcom, who make up the reggaeton duo Gente De Zona, along with Havana rapper Maykel Osboro and DJ El Funky, both of whom are based in Cuba and are members of the San Isidro movement.
Manny Hernandez/Getty Images, FILE
San Isidro is a grassroots collective of artists that formed in 2018 to protest the Cuban government's censorship of artistic expression, Alfonso said.
"Patria y vida" paid tribute to the San Isidro movement in its lyrics and the video, which includes English translations.
The Cuban government has punished Osorbo and El Funky for criticizing the Cuban government in their music and on social media.
Osorbo has been in prison since May, according to Bueno, and over the summer, El Funky shared on Instagram that he was placed on house arrest. But both artists have continued to speak out.
In his verse on "Patria y vida," Osorbo gives a shout out to prominent activists in the fight for freedom of expression, including academic and poet Anamely Ramos, and Cuban professor Omara Ruiz Urquiola, who were targeted and punished by the Cuban government for speaking out.
The making of a viral anthem
"Patria y vida" was released in February, but went viral in July, becoming a rallying call for anti-government protests that broke out across the island in response to an economic crisis that led to food and medicine shortages, power outages and a spike in COVID-19.
Bueno said that the song, which was Romero's idea, was initially titled "It's over" -- a phrase from the song's chorus. But after hearing the "patria y vida" lyric, he urged his collaborators to make it the title.
Manny Hernandez/Getty Images, FILE
"Now it is the phrase that we are truly chanting every time we are going to protest -- whether in Madrid, in Milan, in France, at the Vatican, at the White House, with other Cubans, at the United Nations," he said.
According to Alfonso, part of the reason that the song has gone viral is that "it was a collaboration between Cuba and Miami," which helped it reach a larger audience, and it was released as the social unrest in Cuba was compounding.
"There has been opposition in Cuba for many years, and there have been voices of dissent for many years, but they never had the access to digital platforms like they do now," Alfonso said. "So that is the biggest catalyzer for all this movement to happen."
Amid the protest, the Cuban government blocked the internet and social media access in an attempt to silence the protests.
Afonso said that economic instability due to the policies of the Cuban government is exacerbated by international sanctions and the U.S. embargo, including a restriction imposed by the Trump administration on the ability of Cubans in the diaspora to send remittances through Western Union to their families.
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For Bueno, this has meant that he has been unable to send money to his mother, who inspired him to become a musician and is suffering from Alzheimer's disease.
"It is really very difficult for me just to think that maybe it will be a long time before I can see my family, that maybe I will not see my mother again," he said. "It's something that breaks my soul into a thousand pieces."
The fight continues
According to Alfonso, the political positions of those part of the "Patria y vida" movement vary.
Some protestors have called for U.S. military intervention -- a position that, according to Alfonso, is unpopular in Cuba and weaponized by the Cuban government to stigmatize and silence dissent.
"The Cubans, they want change, but they don't necessarily want the U.S. government to bring a change or to interfere … so that sense of national identity, respect to the historical legacy of the revolution, that is still there," she said. "And that is a popularized idea. It is not a communist [idea] or it's not the government -- it's the Cubans, overall."
Joe Raedle/Getty Images, FILE
The protests in Cuba over the summer were met by a crackdown on dissent by the Cuban government, leading to the imprisonment or detention of many who spoke out.
"They are having a very bad time. The protestors have been the bravest people I have ever met," Bueno said, adding that it's been heartbreaking for him to be away from his fellow musicians who have been punished for speaking out.
But the fight has continued and "Patria y vida" is the rallying cry in the fight to free the political prisoners on the island.
This fall, protesters are set to take to the streets again as part of "Marcha civica for el cambio," or "civic march for change" -- a protest organized by Cuban playwright Yunior Garcia Aguilera that is expected to take place across various provinces on the island.
Bruno Brizzi/Medialys Images/Sipa USA via AP, FILE
Aguilera wrote a letter to the government asking for permission to hold the protest and according to article 56 of Cuba's constitution, citizens "have a right to peaceful demonstration," Alfonso said, but this right has not been protected by the government.
In response to Aguilera, the Cuban government announced celebrations for a national defense day to coincide with the protests in the hopes of "neutralizing" dissent, Alfonso said.
Aguilera has since changed the date of the protest to Nov. 15.
FAQsWho sang Patria y Vida? ›
Patria y vidaDid Patria y Vida Win Latin Grammy? ›
The song, which also won a Latin Grammy for Best Urban Song, beat out Bad Bunny's hit single Dákiti and J Balvin and Tainy's Agua. Patria y Vida, or homeland and life, is a poke at Fidel Castro's slogan "Patria o Muerte," which means "homeland or death."What is the motto of Cuba? ›
Motto: ¡Patria o Muerte, Venceremos! ("Homeland or Death, We Shall Overcome!")What is the meaning behind the song Viva La Vida? ›
Coldplay's song “Viva La Vida” is an interpretation of king louis's lost last speech before his death. The song is written through King Louis point of view, as he apologizes to his people, accepting his fate.Where does Patria o Muerte come from? ›
Patria o Muerte, Venceremos is an official national motto of Cuba, adopted in 1960.What caused the Cuban protests? ›
Protesters' motivations included resentment at the Cuban government's authoritarianism and curbs on civil liberties, the government's COVID-19 pandemic lockdown rules, the government's failure to follow through on promised economic and political reforms; protesters were also angered by the poor state of the Cuban ...What does Patria y Vida Viva Cuba Libre mean? ›
"Patria y Vida" ("Homeland and Life") is a slogan and song associated with the July 2021 Cuban protests. It is an inversion of the Cuban Revolution motto Patria o Muerte ("Homeland or Death").What does it mean to be Cuban? ›
Cubans (Spanish: Cubanos) are people born in Cuba and people with Cuban citizenship. Cuba is a multi-ethnic nation, home to people of different ethnic, religious and national backgrounds. As a result, Cubans generally do not equate their nationality with ethnicity but with citizenship and their allegiance to Cuba.Who was the first Hispanic to win a Grammy? ›
Ramón Ayala in 2002 managed for the first time to win a Grammy, this after being nominated for Best Mexican/Mexican-American Performance six times and left empty-handed.
Rosalía accepts the Latin Grammy Award for album of the year in Las Vegas. On a night when the world's biggest pop star was conspicuous by his absence, cutting-edge flamenco-pop singer Rosalía stole the spotlight Thursday by walking off with the coveted album of the year award at the 23rd Latin Grammys.Who was the first Hispanic artist to win a Grammy? ›
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1. Greetings. You probably already know that “Hola” is the Spanish word for hello. This is quite sufficient for greeting someone in Cuba, since it's a fairly informal society.How safe is visiting Cuba? ›
Cuba - Level 2: Exercise Increased Caution
Country Summary: Petty crime is a threat for tourists in Cuba. Also, violent crime, including armed robbery, homicide, and sexual assault, sometimes occurs in Cuba.
#4 Pinga is…
Literally translated it refers to the male genital organ. However, conjugated in a wide variety of ways and placed into all sort of different contexts, it can mean anything from “it is horrible” (está de Pinga), “amazing” (empinagado), “what the hell is up with you” (qué Pinga te pasa a tí)…
"La Vie en rose" was the song that made Piaf internationally famous, its lyrics expressing the joy of finding true love and appealing to those who had endured the difficult period of World War II.What's the meaning of Viva in English? ›
◊ Viva comes from Italian and Spanish, where it means “long live.” 2 viva /ˈvaɪvə/ noun. plural vivas.What is Viva la Vida about Reddit? ›
The song is of regret, sorrow, apology, he knows he'll be damned to hell (I know St. Peter won't call my name) and acceptance of his fate. The name Viva la vida (Spanish for Long live life) came from a painting Chris saw by Mexican painter Frida Kahlo.What was Patria Mirabal known for? ›
The Mirabal sisters were political activists and martyrs from the province of Salcedo in the Dominican Republic. They were also known as the "Butterflies,' the code name used by one of them during their underground political activities against the dictatorship of Rafael Leonidas Trujillo in the 1950s.What did Patria do? ›
Patria is inspired and moved, and she finally offers herself to God as a “sacrificial lamb” in exchange for Nelson's life. The church finally takes a stance on Trujillo after 30 years. Patria now has the real support of her religious family, so as thanks for this she offers herself to God – even to die, if need be.
Patria originally believes that she wants to be a nun, but she decided on a life as a wife and mother after falling in love with her husband, Pedrito. She becomes a mother of the revolution as well, hosting revolutionary meetings in her home.Was the Cuban Revolution successful? ›
The Cuban Revolution had powerful domestic and international repercussions. In particular, it transformed Cuba–United States relations, although efforts to improve diplomatic relations, such as the Cuban thaw, gained momentum during the 2010s.What caused the conflict between Cuba and the US? ›
1898: The Spanish-American War.
In February, the USS Maine mysteriously explodes in Havana Harbor, killing more than 250 American sailors. The tragedy fuels calls for America to liberate Cuba militarily and protect U.S. business interests there. Fighting starts in April.
When studying reconnaissance photographs, CIA analysts had failed to spot coral reefs in the shallow waters of the Bay of Pigs that impeded the progress of landing craft and disabled a pair of boats. In addition, one of the red signal lights carried by a frogman accidentally flickered offshore.What is the theme of Viva Cuba? ›
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44. Jeva. This can mean either a girl or a girlfriend. So mi jeva is “my girlfriend.”How do you say car in Cuba? ›
Maquina. In other Spanish-speaking countries, “maquina” means “machine”. In Cuba, however, it is used to refer to a car.What do Cubans call Americans? ›
"La Yuma" is Cuban street lingo for the United States, and "Yumas" can be Americans or foreigners from any non-Spanish speaking country.
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Most Latin Grammys won by a female artist
Natalia Lafourcade with 14 awards is the most awarded female artist, followed by Shakira with 12 awards.
Latto's "Big Energy," which reached No. 3 on the Billboard Hot 100, won song of the year.Who won Best Traditional Pop Vocal Album 2022? ›
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Who was the first black person to win a Grammy award? “In 1958, more than 20 years after her first performance at the Apollo Theater, Ellla Fitzgerald become the first African American to win a Grammy.Has any black artist won a Grammy? ›
Since the inception of the Grammys in 1957, only eleven black artists have won the Album of the Year Award: Stevie Wonder, Michael Jackson, Lionel Richie, Quincy Jones, Natalie Cole, Whitney Houston, Lauryn Hill, Outkast, Ray Charles, Herbie Hancock, and Jon Batiste.Who won the 1st Grammy for Rap? ›
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Can't wear beach clothes, cutoffs, and hats to restaurants, evening events, or entertainment venues. Men wear long pants and shoes. Women wear a sundress, skirt or slacks, and a blouse. Bring a light jacket or sweater as rooms, restaurants, tour buses, and other public areas can be overly air-conditioned.
However, even though the correct word is "gracias" for thanking someone, a Caribbean person, such as a Cuban or Puerto Rican could quite possibly come out with "Gracia", because they frequently cut the letter "s" out of many of their words when they speak.How do Cubans say dude? ›
Acere or Asere
Acere works like the English word “dude.” It's like a friend, but people use it more often as a filler word to accompany phrases.
|Country group||Upper-middle income economy|
|GDP||$100.023 billion (nominal, 2018) $137 billion (2017 est.)|
|GDP rank||62nd (nominal, 2018) 77th (PPP, 2016)|
Crime and Safety in Cuba. Cuba has a reputation as a fairly safe country to visit. While you are there you should take the same precautions as you would in any country with a high rate of poverty — do not travel alone at night or display any obvious signs of wealth (expensive camera equipment, phones, jewelry, etc.).What can Americans not do in Cuba? ›
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mother country, motherland [noun] the country where one was born.What is the message of Viva Cuba? ›
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A new season 4 theory suggests 001/Henry Creel/Vecna is actually Eleven's real father – and it low-key makes sense.
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Pop, Rock. Score and parts (softcover). Published by Hal Leonard (HL. 8725224).