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February 20, 2021.

By Sarah Marsh, Rodrigo Gutierrez

Original Article: Anthem Featuring “Gente de Zona” Sparks State Fury

(Reuters) – A group of Miami-based Cuban musicians including reggaeton duo
Gente de Zona launched an impassioned anti-Communist anthem this week that has
gone viral, sparking a furious state response.

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.

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.

lyrics refer to ideological intolerance, the partial dollarization of the
economy, food shortages and the exodus of young Cubans who see no future on the
island. The government blames its economic woes largely on crippling U.S.

The video
featuring the five artists – all Black men – has racked up 1 million views on
YouTube in three days, sparking lively discussions on social media, while many
in Cuba – where internet service is costly – are sharing it on USB sticks.

“No more
lies, my people calls for freedom, no more doctrines” sings Alexander Delgado,
one half of GdZ, chanting “It’s over” in the refrain.

Miami-based artists had until recently managed the tightrope of achieving
capitalist success abroad without breaking with the Communist-run island. GdZ
even called for applause for Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel at a Havana
concert in 2018 although that sparked calls for a boycott from some in the
exile community.


state media and officials including the president have launched a barrage of
attacks, Twitter hashtags and memes on “Homeland and Life,” branding it
unpatriotic and without artistic merit. They say the artists behind it are
opportunistically trying to placate their Miami public.

“It makes
fun of one of the slogans held aloft by our people in the face of continuous
U.S. aggressions,” said Havana-based TV anchor Froilan Arencibia.

Dopico, the Cuban-born director of the Hemispheric Institute of Performance and
Politics at New York University, said the rejection of that revolutionary cry
was unprecedented in recent Cuban popular music.

“It shocks
us all out of the depressing menace of death that comes with our understanding
of nation,” she said.

The song
reflects a surge in overt anti-Cuban-government sentiment among more
contemporary generations of Cuban migrants, said Michael Bustamante, an
assistant professor of Latin American history at Florida International

But it
has also resonated with people on the island, especially youths who have become
increasingly vocal about their frustrations since the advent of mobile internet
two years ago, with some emblazoning their Facebook Profile photos with the
banner “Homeland and Life.”

“I follow
Fidel’s ideals but lately things have been happening that I don’t really agree
with,” said Havana resident Loraine Martinez, who enjoyed the song.

This is
not the first time that the songs of Cuban musicians on the island and abroad
have become stand-ins for political causes, said Bustamante. But the Cuban
government’s response was unusually forceful, he said, reflecting its anxiety
and what he called “misplaced priorities.”

“If they are worried about popular frustration, the way to fix that is to focus on bread-and-butter reforms, not this kind of reflexive ideological performativity,” he said.

Yotuel, Patria y Vida