Patria y Vida – surely, by now you’ve heard the song, seen the video ⬆️, and may even know a little bit about the latest musical sensation to come out of the Cuban diaspora.
The piece comes at a time when social unrest and economic distress in Cuba has spurred political dissent and protests unlike any we’ve seen in decades. Rapperos and reggeatoneros, Yotuel Romero, Gente de Zona, Descemer Bueno, Maykel, and El Funky have collaborated, together with director Asiel Babastro to bring elements of hip hop, rap and reggaeton, crafting a message of resistance against the Cuban Government.
Here are a few interesting facts you may not have heard about this song and music video:
1. Patria y Vida
Patria y Vida, or Homeland and Life, is a play on the words “Patria o Muerte,” first spoken by Fidel Castro at a eulogy for la Coubre explosion. The phrase means “Homeland or Death” and was uttered in defiance, from the belief that imperialist forces were responsible for the two explosions.
2. The Domino Lyrics
The domino lyrics “tu cinco-nueve, yo double dos” compares 1959, the year of the Cuban revolution to 2020 the year of the San Isidro movement.
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3. Luis Manuel Otero Alcantara
The music video features Luis Manuel Otero Alcantara, one of the key members of The San Isidro movement in Cuba. The movement was started by a group of artists in Cuba and has gained a lot of support in and out of the island.
4. One Video – Two Worlds
One video, two worlds. Emblematic of the Cuban diaspora, half of the video — the part with El Funky, Maykel Osorbio and Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara (who is not a musician in the song) — was filmed in Cuba and the other half — with Gente de Zona, Yotuel Romero, and Descemer Bueno — was filmed in the U.S. even though the video looks very cohesive.
Showcasing footage shot by civilians of police brutality and the government’s reaction to protests by artists, the music video shines a rarely-seen light on some of the struggles Cubans face in the island.
5. Filming In Cuba Was Very Tricky
Filming in Cuba was very tricky. The crew had to be secretive about renting gear and film in an abandoned house, on top of following restrictions due to COVID. Many rental houses refused to rent gear, and locations refused to allow filming for fear of retaliation from the government.
6. The San Isidro Movement
The song directly references The San Isidro movement in its lyrics, saying “the world knows the San Isidro Movement will persevere.” El Funky has stated that he and the writers have intended for this to become an anthem for the people of Cuba.
7. Yotuel Romero Hand-Picked Asiel Babastro
Yotuel Romero, from the band the Orishas, hand-picked Asiel Babastro to direct the film during the writing process. They had previously worked together on Ámame Como Soy Yo, ‘Love Me as I am,’ another controversial song and video that criticized the current regime in Cuba.
8. Patria o Muerte
The Cuban government has released a response video that they called “Patria o Muerte por la Vida,” “Homeland or Death for Life,” digging its heels deeper into the revolution’s motto.
This clap-back video from the Cuban government has lyrics like “dale agua a ese domino,” which means “shuffle the domino pieces,” likely referencing the lyrics in Patria y Vida, “60 años trancado en domino” ‘60 years stuck in this domino game [the cuban regime].’
9. It’s Kinda A Big Deal
Since the video came out, Cubans in and out of the island can’t stop talking about it, with the phrase “Patria Y Vida” becoming a colloquial phrase — and a controversial one to speak in Cuba.
10. Chests Are Being Painted
In the video, Patria y Vida, Yotuel has the words “Patria y Vida” painted across his bare chest. Many in and out of Cuba have followed his example and sport the words in white or black. Images and videos with these words have been circulating social media since the video came out, continuing traction for the movement under the hashtag #patriayvida
BONUS: Leave Your Shades at Home
Gente de Zona normally wears sunglasses as part of their image and brand, but for this video both the artists and the director felt it was important that emotion was conveyed, and so nobody wore sunglasses.