By Emily Drooby
Thousands of anti-communist protesters in Cuba chanted, “Patria y Vida,” which translates to “homeland and life.” For those who take the risk of saying those words during protests, could end up being arrested by the government.
Those words were a stark response to a similar government phrase from when Fidel Castro was in power, “Patria O Muerte,” which means, “homeland or death.”
Across Cuba, Puerto Rico, Florida, Las Vegas and more, demonstrators took to the streets in a show of support, demanding access to COVID vaccines, food, and freedom. Thousands are calling for an end to the 62-year-old communist regime.
It started back in 1959 when Fidel Castro overthrew the military dictatorship that was in place. He quickly converted Cuba into a one-party communist system, ruling for almost fifty years. His brother Raul took over and recently handed the reigns to current president, Miguel Díaz-Canel.
Under Castro, Cuba’s highly contentious relationship with the United States led to the Bay of Pigs Invasion and the Cuban Missile Crisis, which brought the two countries to the brink of war.
Cuba’s economy and political freedoms have suffered ever since. Castro still holds a tight grip on the Cuban people.
That’s what makes these protests so shocking and unprecedented. Anti-government activity usually leads to immediate arrest. But in this police state, people are so hungry, and so angry that they’re speaking out against a government that for so long they’ve feared.
Cuba is facing its worst economic crisis in years, with tensions building for months over increased sanctions first imposed by the Trump administration. The pandemic only delivered an additional blow to the already ailing economy.