From his exile in Miami, the Cuban singer, songwriter, producer and actor Yotuel Romero became one of the spokesmen for the protest against the Cuban government.
The musician is one of the authors of the song Homeland and life, the anthem of the protests in Cuba against the communist regime. Along with him, it was composed by other popular Cuban singers, such as Descemer Bueno, El Osorbo and El Funky, together with the group Gente de Zona.
They joined their voices to point against what they consider to be more than 60 years of “repression” and “trampled dignity” in Cuba and they vow for a “new dawn.”
Yotuel Romero at the protests in Miami. AFP photo
The song is several months old now – it debuted on music platforms on February 16. Since then, it has accumulated almost six million views on YouTube. From the title, a contrast to the well-known motto of the Cuban Revolution, Homeland or death, to the last word, it is openly contrary to the Government of Cuba and its policies.
Now, from his social networks, Romero proposed to consider July 11 in Cuba the “Day of Fatherland and Life”, “in homage to all Cubans in the world” who this Sunday took to the streets to demand their rights.
His proposal comes a few hours after thousands of Cubans took to the streets of the island to express their discontent with the Díaz-Canel government and protested the economic and health crisis that the country is experiencing, in addition to the repression and lack of freedoms.
“The world is listening to us and that is what the dictatorship did not want,” Yotuel said in a live broadcast from his social networks. And he affirmed: “The people woke up, the people want Homeland and Life.” In addition, he announced that he will be present at the caravan that will be held on July 25 and 26 in Washington in support of his compatriots.
“Homeland and life”, the theme that brought together Yotuel, Descember Bueno, Gente de Zona, El Funky and Maykel Osorbo against the Cuban regime. Photo Clarín Archive
Similarly, Romero thanked the international artists who showed solidarity with the Cubans and dedicated a few words to Maykel “El Osorbo” Castillo Pérez, imprisoned for weeks.
El Osorbo, one of the authors of Homeland and life, was sentenced in 2018 to a year and a half in prison (six months more than the prosecutor’s request), under the alleged crime of attack, for demonstrating against one of the decrees. The member of the San Isidro Movement has been detained in Cuba for almost 40 days.
Considered one of the pioneers of Cuban hip hop, Yotuel is known for his syncretism of rap and other urban genres with Afro-Cuban rhythms and Caribbean folklore. Rose to fame in 2000 with Orishas’ seminal album, Cuban.
As a composer and producer Yotuel worked with renowned artists such as Ricky Martin, Jennifer López, Rubén Blades, Daddy Yankee and Christina Aguilera, among many others. He also composed and recorded the song with Abel Pintos Walk (smooth and graceful), included in the new Argentine album.
What does “Homeland and life” say
Yotuel is one of the pioneers of Cuban hip hop, and known for his syncretism of rap and other urban genres. AFP photo
“No more lies. The people ask for freedom, no more doctrine. Let us no longer shout homeland or death but Homeland and life,” these artists sing in the song.
“It’s over, you five nine, I double two. It’s over, sixty years locked the domino. Look, it’s over: your five nine I double two. It’s over, sixty years locking the domino”, sentences the chorus of the song , which uses the game of dominoes, very popular among Cubans, to launch a message of change.
“You are already left over, you have nothing left, you are already getting off. The people are tired of holding on. We are waiting for a new dawn,” says the song in reference to the system led by Fidel Castro for more than five decades after the triumph of the revolution in January 1959.
Gente de Zona, Yotuel Romero, Descemer Bueno, El Osorbo and El Funky also express in the lyrics of the topic their support for the San Isidro Movement, made up of young artists who peacefully protest against two laws of 2018 and 2019 that restrict freedom of expression and they awakened the solidarity of ordinary citizens.
Yotuel composed and recorded with Abel Pintos the song “Camina (smooth and elegant)”, included in the new Argentine album. Photo: Instagram Yotuel
Homeland and life makes direct reference to the irruption of State Security agents, on November 26, 2018, to the headquarters of the group to repress the barracks who read poetry and participated in a hunger strike to demand the release of rebellious rapper Denis Solís.
Against the dollarization of the economy
“They broke our door, violated our temple and the world is aware that the San Isidro Movement continues to be in place,” sing the interpreters of Homeland and life, all of them very popular in Cuba and in Miami, where most of the island’s political exiles are.
“What do we celebrate if people are in a hurry exchanging Che Guevara and Martí for currency?” The song says in another passage, referring to the recent monetary reform, which includes the partial dollarization of the Cuban economy in the midst of the serious crisis that the country is going through.
“Homeland and life” reformulates the slogan “Homeland or death”, with which the Cuban revolution was identified. Photo Clarín Archive
The State has been trading a good part of food and basic products in foreign currency for months, despite the fact that the majority of the population does not charge in that currency nor can they acquire it through official channels.
At the same time, the lyrics compare what the island offers for foreigners and what it reserves for Cubans themselves.
“Everything has changed is not the same / Between you and me there is an abyss / Advertising of a paradise in Varadero / While mothers cry for their children who left,” they sing, while scenes of repression and a lectern occur, as the one that Castro used to use for his endless speeches, engulfed in flames.
Why did they join
Several of the artists spoke on social networks about what encouraged them to unite their voices, in a move similar to the one that in July 2019 summoned Residente, Ricky Martin and Bad Bunny, and that culminated with the resignation of the then governor of Puerto Rico, Ricardo Rosselló.
“The lie is over, the deception is over, the imprisonment is over, the torture is over, the prison is over, it is over with not letting you be as you are,” said Yotuel Romero, a member of the Orishas group.
In the video for “Patria y vida,” a lectern similar to the one Fidel Castro used to use for his speeches burns in flames. Photo Video Capture
Meanwhile, Descemer Bueno, who took his first musical steps as a bassist for Santiago Feliú, pointed out that “people are already realizing what is happening and are feeling firsthand what the end of this dictatorship is going to be.”
The official response
Unsurprisingly, the official response was not long in coming. The Granma newspaper, the most important newspaper on the island and the official communication organ of the Communist Party of Cuba, published articles alluding to the subject.
One of them, titled Country or Death, qualifies as “rag and coward” the subject, and as “rats” to its authors, and affirms that “there is no time to be intimidated by those who try to trample our country with a song.”
The artists were accused by the official press of being part of “an operation” implemented from Miami. Photo Video Capture
“Those who sing, they do it as if Cuba had not given them anything, as if they had become artists in Jupiter, as if they did not remember where they grew up and who embraced them for the first time (…)”, the text continues. he points out that “that song soaked in hate tries to make fun of all that we are” and “tries to change Cuba for a million views on YouTube.”
“There is not even the slightest hint of ingenuity, not a hint of intelligence in the crude conversion of the motto Patria o Muerte, in Patria y Vida, title of the diatribe,” says another of the texts of Granma, which qualifies the song as being an “operation from Miami.”
In the same vein, the article, which is titled Sing to the country, not against it, admits that “the alliance of the protagonists does not surprise either”, over whose creative capacities there is a cloak of doubt.
Yotuel Romero, in Buenos Aires, in 2013. Photo Juan Manuel Foglia.
The text acknowledges that the song’s authors are “famous, some with talent trained in our teaching system” and that they had commercial successes in Cuba.
But he adds that “dazzled by the desire for higher profits, seduced by the Florida celebrity linked to the anti-Cuban industry (…) they tore their clothes and showed the precariousness of their ethical principles, if they had any”.
And incidentally, he accuses the artists of “rewriting their personal stories” once settled “comfortably” in Miami. Although the “accusation” is devalued by El Osorbo himself, who published on his networks that Homeland and life it is “a war hymn”; and he did it from Cuba.