Dr. Jose Azel on how Cubans are singing for freedom from tyranny just how Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania sang against Soviet occupation for their freedom.
‘Patria y Vida’
Between 1987 and 1991 the peoples of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania, fought Soviet occupation essentially by singing. Two million people holding hands and singing patriotic songs across three countries. This was the Singing Revolution of the Baltic States.
We are now witnessing massive protests across Cuba with protesters chanting ‘Patria y Vida,’ meaning ‘homeland and life.’ Patria y Vida is the theme of a song written by Cuban dissidents that has resonated with Cubans in dramatic contrast with the government’s slogan of ‘Patria o Muerte,’ or ‘homeland or death.’ The lyrics of Patria y Vida highlight the lack of freedom in Cuba. Patria y Vida has become the protester’s anthem.
Yes, years of severe shortages of food, medicines, and other necessities, together with a wave of COVID infections were a precipitating factor, but this was not an uprising about economic shortages. This uprising reveals that Cubans no longer believe their hardship to be the result of U.S. economic sanctions, but rather the result of the unproductive economic system imposed by their leadership.
This Patria y Vida uprising shows that Cubans now realize that their hardships result from their lack of freedom. Next comes the choice they must make: exit, voice, or loyalty. Such is the theme-title of a 1970 book by the economist and political scientist Albert O. Hirschman, which perfectly captures the choices facing the Cuban people.
Hirschman’s Exit, Voice, and Loyalty became an influential must-read book for social scientists. Hirschman’s thesis is that an individual in a disappointing or failing relationship has three choices. That person can leave, complain, or endure in silence. In this scheme of exit, voice, or loyalty, ‘exit’ is leaving a country by migrating to a different nation-state, ‘voice’ is the option of articulating discontent, and ‘loyalty’ is allegiance to the governing regime or its ideology.
As we witnessed in Cuba, even in repressive regimes there is always a certain loyalty to the government. All regimes must have at least a modicum of acceptance from some sectors of the population in order to be able to hold on to the operational capabilities of its institutions such as the armed forces. For those not loyal to the regime, only exit and voice remain as the mutually exclusive options.
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