Last Thursday, November 18, Cuba’s “Patria y Vida” (Motherland and Life) won the awards for Best Urban Song and Best Song of the Year at the 2021 Latin Grammy Awards. Pedro de la Hoz, arts and entertainment spin expert for “Granma”, the Communist Party newspaper, described the theme as a “monstrosity” and went on to elaborate conspiracy theories about it, construing it as a “pamphlet produced and designed to shore up the United States government’s attempted soft coup” against Cuba.
This party mouthpiece thus disrespected the professional criteria of the members of the Latin Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, who awarded their votes not once, but twice, to this work of unquestionable authorship, lyrical and performing quality. Specialized magazine Rolling Stone commented: “Patria Y Vida (…) felt searing and much more interesting than the anodyne winners of the past”. Well, de la Hoz is the same one who, when reporting over the years on the Latin Grammy Awards, customarily skipped the golden gramophones given to Arturo Sandoval or Paquito D’Rivera, just to mention two of the most awarded musicians from the Cuban exile community.
Granma’s diatribes air the dictatorship’s anger towards a song put together by six artists raised in underprivileged Cuba; which summarizes the feelings of a people fed up with doctrines, lies and state violence; that has served to unite them around of a motto and an anthem. Take a look at this brief timeline:
Writing his column for The Washington Post, Cuban independent journalist Abraham Jiménez Enoa cited last week a typical event occurred last February: In the humble neighborhood of Los Pinos, on the outskirts of Havana, the regime’s political police besieged the house of young dissident Anyell Valdés. Just a few days before “Patria y Vida” had been launched on social networks and Anyell painted the untried slogan on the facade. The Castro pack poisoned Anyell’s children’s dog so they could jump over the fence and cover the sign with blue paint. The children’s teachers were part of the mob.
In April, members of the San Isidro Movement, including artist Luis Manuel Otero and Maykel Castillo, El Osorbo, co-author of the Grammy-winner song, responded to the Cuban Police siege of their headquarters by blasting and chanting “Patria y Vida” on the street along with dozens of neighbors who sneered Cuba’s ruler Miguel Díaz-Canel and hampered the police attempts to arrest El Osorbo.
On July 11, the cries of “Freedom” from tens of thousands of Cubans who spontaneously took to the streets to protest against the regime in more than 50 cities alternated with those of “Patria y Vida.”
As Jiménez Enoa writes, the regime is uncomfortable with “Patria y Vida” because it breaks with the forced choice of “socialism or death”, with the exclusive quandary of “either you are with me or you are against me”, and because it understands life as freedom and fundamental rights forf Cuban citizens, proposing national reconciliation in such a framework to build a country in which all Cubans can take part, without being persecuted for the ideas they profess.
From the Cinco y Medio prison, where he had been confined six months ago, one of the performers of this hymn of freedom and redemption, Maykel “El Osorbo”, told activist and art curator Carolina Barrero after being told about the first Grammy: “It was the people who made this song great. It belongs to Cubans who are outside, Cubans who are inside, to those who protested on July 11th, to Cubans around the world in general.”
Then, upon learning that “Patria y Vida” had won the most coveted Latin Grammy by being voted Song of the Year: “In a race, you can put lies three yards from the end, and truth at the start: truth will always win.”