‘Homeland and Life’: What liberty sounds like in communist Cuba

Cuba’s communist Castro dictatorship is panicking, and they should be: “Homeland and Life” is becoming the soundtrack for freedom and the parting song for a murderous and totalitarian socialist revolution.

James Freeman in The Wall Street Journal:

The Sound of Liberty in Cuba

A new challenge to the Marxist regime.

Thirty years after the collapse of the Soviet military empire, one of the world’s remaining communist dictatorships is facing a fresh challenge to its authority. And it couldn’t sound any sweeter.

Agence France-Presse reports:

In Cuba, where music and revolution are intertwined, a song by rappers boldly denouncing the communist government has found viral appeal online — but angered a regime that keeps close tabs on culture.

The song is called, “Patria y Vida,” or “Homeland and Life,” and has logged more than two million views on Alphabet, Inc.’s YouTube. Sarah Marsh and Rodrigo Gutierrez of Reuters have more on the popular new anticommunist anthem and the Miami-based musicians who helped make it happen:

Gente de Zona, Yotuel of hip-hop band Orishas fame and singer-songwriter Descemer Bueno collaborated on the song with two rappers in Cuba, Maykel Osorbo and El Funky, who are part of a dissident artists’ collective that sparked an unusual protest against repression outside the culture ministry last November.

“Homeland and Life” repurposes the old slogan “Patria o Muerte” (“Homeland or Death”) emblazoned on walls across the Caribbean country ever since Fidel Castro’s 1959 leftist revolution and expresses frustration with being required to make sacrifices in the name of ideology for 62 years.

“It’s over,” says the song’s chorus. What’s most striking is the song’s direct demand for freedom and blunt challenge to the dictatorship and its lies. “Advertising a paradise,” sing the performers, “while mothers cry for their departed children.”

Nora Gámez Torres notes in the Miami Herald:

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…

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.

Naturally, the Cuban dictatorship is also able to distribute its Marxist propaganda via Twitter and the other U.S. social-media platforms that habitually censor Americans. But until Silicon Valley starts cracking down on Cuban dissidents, the Havana regime may not be strong enough to suppress the sound of liberty. Ms. Torres reports:

The uber popularity of those who perform in “Patria y Vida” — Grammy award winners with a global audience and, at the same time, hip-hop and reggaeton stars in Cuba — as well as the delicate political and economic moment the country is going through, help explain both the instant success the song has become and the government’s angry reaction.

Those praying for the end of the communist regime have been disappointed for decades. But in December the Journal’s Mary Anastasia O’Grady noted the new phenomenon of artists and musicians increasingly refusing to remain silent:

In a telephone interview last week I asked Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara, one of the leaders of the dissident San Isidro Movement in Havana, what he thinks of Fidel Castro.

His answer stunned me not because I disagreed but because challenging the godlike myth of the comandante, alive or dead, has always been taboo.

“For me he was a bad person, and what he did is not justified by what he did in things like health care,” the 33-year-old performance artist said. “If you repress someone because they wrote a poem you don’t like or you arrest young people continually, you are not a good person. This repression has destroyed the lives of intellectuals.”

Lots of Cubans will tell you similar things privately, but few have dared utter them in public. Until now.

Mr. Otero Alcántara appears in the video for the new song. Ms. O’Grady noted in December that in her conversation with the artist, she “couldn’t shake the feeling of something new unfolding.”

That feeling now has a sound.


Also in the Miami Herald, Syra Ortiz-Blanes reports that this week Cuban dissidents were briefly able to use Google to undermine the communist dictatorship before the Alphabet subsidiary restored the regime’s preferences:

For a few hours, Cuba’s storied Revolutionary Square, where Fidel Castro once gave hours-long speeches to the masses, had a different name on Google Maps this week: Freedom Plaza.

A group of Cubans on the island and in the diaspora launched a campaign to change the name of the Plaza de la Revolución in Havana to the Plaza de la Libertad — and succeeded, though only temporarily.

User requests for the switch made it through Google’s system, the company confirmed, but were eventually flagged and the name reverted back to its revolutionary idiom.

Osmani Pardo, a Cuba-based activist, said the loose-knit network, whose exact size is unknown, aims to empower the Cuban people to assign new words and language to government-run institutions.

Now this is the kind of renaming project all Americans should support. Certainly few historical figures are more deserving of cancellation than the murderous Castro.

Imagine if social media networks could somehow be used to undermine tyrants and open closed societies. But how?


Mr. Freeman is the co-author of “The Cost: Trump, China and American Revival.”


Follow James Freeman on Twitter and Parler.