▶ Watch Video: Gente De Zona reflects on how “Patria Y Vida” became an anthem for Cuba’s protests

During the biggest anti-government protests on the island of Cuba in decades, protesters have been chanting words from a hip-hop song released earlier this year, calling for the end to Cuba’s decades-long communist and authoritarian regime.

Demonstrators are heard echoing the words to “Patria y Vida” (“Homeland and Life”). The music video, with more than six million views on YouTube, is a collaboration of six Cuban musicians — two who live on the island, and the others in Miami.

The song’s lyrics have become an anthem for the demonstrations:

No más mentiras
Mi pueblo pide libertad, no más doctrinas
Ya no gritemos patria o muerte sino patria y vida
Y empezar a construir lo que soñamos
Lo que destruyeron con sus manos

Que no siga corriendo la sangre
Por querer pensar diferente
¿Quién le dijo que Cuba es de ustedes?

No more lies!
My people demand freedom. No more doctrines!
Let’s no longer shout “Homeland or Death” but “Homeland and Life.”
And start building what we dreamed of
What they destroyed with their hands.

Stop the blood from running
For daring to think differently
Who told you that Cuba belong to you?

Correspondent Manuel Bojorquez asked songwriter Randy Malcom, “Were you surprised by the song being used the way that it’s been used?”

“We never thought there would be such a drastic change in the mind of the people, following this song, that gave strength and bravery to the Cuban people to go out and denounce everything that was happening on the island,” Malcom replied.

He and Alexander Delgado make up the reggaeton group Gente de Zona, and are two of the song’s composers. [Their collaborators are Yotuel Romero, Descemer Bueno, Maykel Osorbo, and Eliécer “el Funky” Márquez.]

“We said, ‘It’s time to raise our voices. What better way than with music, which is what we do?'” Malcom said.

The artists don’t hold back in criticizing the island’s communist regime, laying bare the struggles of everyday life in Cuba, which has deteriorated significantly after COVID-19 wreaked havoc on the economy.

Its title, “Patria y Vida,” even repurposes Fidel Castro’s revolutionary slogan, “Patria o muerte,” meaning “Homeland or death.”  

“You’re killing the people,” Delgado said. “It couldn’t be ‘Homeland or death,’ it has to be ‘Homeland and life.'”

While the song has received praise from supporters, it’s also garnered backlash from Cuban officials and pro-communists. The duo says the song is banned in the nation. Threats even have been made against their lives.

“We’re talking about the lives of an entire country,” Delgado said. “They’re killing our people. So, if I have to, or we have to die, for our people, we’d do it. We have to keep denouncing it.”

It’s a sacrifice built out of love for their homeland, even knowing their words likely mean they won’t be allowed into Cuba under this regime again.

“We knew we’d never be able to step foot on our land again, that we’d never be able to see our families again,” Malcom said. “But, Cuba is my family. My family is more than 12 million Cubans who are still on the island suffering.”