Graffiti on construction in Havana, capital of Cuba, on July 20. Cuban demonstrators are tried without due process, denounces NGO | Photo: EFE / Ernesto Mastrascusa / Gazeta do Povo
Cuban youth and artists are at the forefront of the mobilizations against the Castro dictatorship that erupted in protests across the island on July 11. They are part of a generation that does not identify with the revolution of six decades ago and who grew up in a period of even greater poverty in the country, which since the end of the Soviet Union no longer received the support of the bloc which enabled it to maintain minimum social standards on the island. In addition, it is the first generation connected to the Internet, installed in Cuba only at the end of 2018, and which now allows Cubans to know the reality of their country beyond the censorship of the Communist Party.
One of the symbols of the marches is the song Patria y Vida, released in February by a group of Cuban reggaeton and hip hop artists, some exiled in the United States and others remaining in the Caribbean country. The success quickly went viral on social media in Cuba and inspired protesters, who sang snippets of the song during the protests.
“No more lies. My people demand freedom, more doctrines,” say the verses of the song, which overturn the dictatorship. After its release, the Cuban state press devoted pages to criticism of the coup and the authorities called the perpetrators “rats” and “mercenaries”. In an attempt to reverse the effects of the popularity of music, dictator Miguel Díaz-Canel called on the population to demonstrate in favor of the Cuban revolution.
The composers of Patria y Vida are linked to the San Isidro Movement, a movement that brings together independent artists in Cuba protesting against a dictatorial law signed in 2018 that bans all artistic expression, public or private, without the prior approval of the Ministry of Culture. . The persecution of artists in this group has served as a catalyst for the current mobilizations.
Visual artist Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara spent a month in hospital against his will after a hunger strike to protest against the persecution and destruction of his works by the dictatorship. He is currently in prison on charges of alleged assassination, resistance and public disorder, and was transferred to a maximum security prison a week ago, according to an Amnesty International complaint.
Demonstrations against the dictatorship of Cuban artists who live on the island are rare, as they risk being reprimanded by the regime. But the scale of the July 11 protests prompted many to speak out publicly in support of the citizens who took to the streets to demand freedom.
Los Van Van musical group, one of the most popular on the Caribbean island, said on its Facebook: “We support the thousands of Cubans who claim their rights, they need to be heard.”
The salsa group Elito Revé y su Charangón also supported the protesters. “How painful, how sad to see the abuse of power by Cuban law enforcement agencies, to see how they attack ordinary and peaceful people,” the musicians said on social media.
Yomil, a singer of the Yomil y El Dany duo, participated in the street protests and was detained for several hours. “Cubans must have a more humble and less selfish government,” the musician said on Twitter. He broadcast live on Facebook of the moment he was arrested by police on July 11.
Cuban singer Silvio Rodríguez, a well-known defender of the ideals of Fidel Castro and ally of the regime, is surprised to plead publicly for the arrested demonstrators who have not committed acts of violence to be released.
“I don’t know how many prisoners there are now, they say there are hundreds. [a liberdade] for those who weren’t violent, “said the singer, who has received criticism from other artists for his defense of a” partial “amnesty only.
Rodríguez, 74, made the remarks on his blog after meeting two artists, one of whom was arrested during the protests. The singer said it was “painful” to hear that young people do not feel part of the revolutionary process, but “of something else”.
An example of this generation gap can be found in the singer’s own family; his son Silvito Liam Rodríguez Varona, a 39-year-old rapper known as Silvito El Libre, released a song called “Pesadilla” (Nightmare) in which he advocates the end of the Communist regime.
The rapper, who has lived in Florida since 2018, challenges the dictatorship in his song: “It’s the gang that controls the bulk of the West Indies, they don’t let go or let go of their seats, they impose too much fear, too many quotes on appearing, too many president, too few elections, many murderers without justification and many innocent people in cardboard houses. “
Cuban artists living off the island have more freedom to openly criticize the regime, and many have denounced the crackdown on the island. This is the case of the singer of Cuban origin Camila Cabello, who lives in the United States, who also spoke in favor of the Cuban demonstrators, believing that the popular uprising was “the biggest demonstration since the beginning of the dictatorship”.
Daughter of a Cuban mother and a Mexican father, the singer spoke for the first time in an interview about the crisis facing Cubans. “My mother cries every day when she sees what is happening. Activists and protesters have disappeared, jailed and physically abused after demonstrating,” the pop star said.
Camila Cabello sent a message to Cubans and people who can use their voice to support the protests: “The most important thing we can do now is talk about #SOSCuba, get attention, educate young people demonstrating in Cuba, risking your life, know that you are not alone and that the rest of the world sees how this government treats its people. “
This week the song “Libertad” made its debut, performed by young Cuban artists Yailenys Pérez and Joncien. The theme is written by Cuban-American producer Emilio Estefan, in partnership with the Foundation for Human Rights in Cuba (FHRC), based in the United States.
The organization said the song came “following the international unrest generated by the strike by members of the San Isidro movement and human rights activists on the island in December 2020; a key component of the catalyst that generated the historic social eruption of March 11. July in much of Cuba “.
The composers hope that the song will become a hymn to the Cuban struggle and a call to the international community against the repression of the dictatorship.