- Lioman Lima – @liomanlima
- BBC News World
He was the great absentee of a night that, according to he told his friends, could have been “among the most beautiful of his life”.
Cuban rapper Maykel Castillo, Osorbo, was unable to attend the Latin Grammy gala on Thursday in Las Vegas, in which “Patria y vida”, the song in which he participates and which has become one of those anthems. oppose the government of Cuba, won two awards: Best Urban Song and Song of the Year.
Castillo’s absence was not due to the United States denying him a visa to enter the country, as has happened with some Cuban artists who have been nominated on previous occasions.
The rebellious rapper could not attend because he has been imprisoned since last May in a maximum security prison in Cuba, accused of “attack, public disorder and evasion” after participating in several protests against the government.
The official press of the island points out that he is a “mercenary” and that he is “at the service of the CIA and the enemies of the revolution”, who, according to the state media version, were also responsible for the fact that “Patria y life “will win in” the most important night of Latin music.
“The stage and the ceremony are a political showcase to defend the interests of those who pay and are legal sponsors of this Latin version of the music awards in the US,” said the state newscast.
The fact that Cuba won for the first time in the history of the Grammy the award for Song of the Year and that this provoked the protest of the authorities (in what in another country might have been cause for celebration) was not the only thing it did. controversial night.
And it is that Castillo, who was also the first artist in the history of the Grammy Awards to win two awards and not be able to receive them due to being imprisoned, is “in a delicate state of health”, according to the artist himself, his relatives and closest friends.
“The award comes at a time when he is not only in prison and in a maximum security prison, at a time when the investigative phase of his case has long expired and he is in legal limbo, waiting for a It is not known when it will take place, but that he is also very ill, “Anamelys Ramos, a member of the opposition Movement San Isidro (MSI), to which Castillo also belongs, tells BBC Mundo.
The art historian, who has communicated frequently with the rapper, assures that he began to have vomiting, sweating and fevers a few weeks ago and a kind of “balls” began to appear all over his body “as if he had swollen glands. “.
“Apparently the initial diagnosis was that his lymphatic system was failing for an unknown reason and that this could be due to a lymphoma or something like that, but the biopsy they did did not give a conclusive result,” he says.
According to Ramos, Castillo, who claims to have gone on a hunger strike in prison, is currently refusing to undergo further examinations because he considers that, while in detention, he does not receive adequate medical care.
The Cuban authorities have not publicly referred to the complaints about the musician’s state of health.
“Until now what they had told him was that the condition to get out of jail was to leave Cuba, but definitely. He doesn’t want to be blackmailed like that, but this illness has come to shake us up. It is a new stage, “says Ramos.
Who is Maykel “Osorbo” Castillo
Born in Havana in 1983, Castillo has become not only a benchmark for protest music on the island, but also one of the most critical young voices against the government.
As he told in an interview with BBC Mundo a few months ago, he grew up without parents in a poor neighborhood of the capital, only reached the fourth grade in school, went through “juvenile reeducation centers” (a kind of prisons for children that exist in Cuba) and then, in adolescence, it was when he discovered music.
“He started rapping at a very young age and that is what he says that saved him, because before he had been imprisoned for fights and things like that. He discovered that he had a talent, that he could have a purpose and he began to become known in the spaces underground“says Ramos.
He adds that it was then that he organized a concert to oppose the call. Decree 349, approved by the government to regulate artistic expression, after which he ended up in prison for a year and a half.
“That’s when he is in jail for the first time for political reasons and that’s when, when he gets out, he becomes more linked to the fight for human rights and is more associated with the MSI,” adds Ramos.
In November 2020, the group, made up of young opposition artists and intellectuals, staged a hunger strike that was finally evicted by the police and that led to an unprecedented protest in front of the Ministry of Culture in Havana.
Then, when he was going to be detained by the police last April, Castillo was rescued by neighbors, who accompanied him in another unprecedented protest in the San Isidro neighborhood.
Towards “Homeland and life”
At the beginning of the year, he starred alongside the rapper The Funki and the leader of the MSI, Luis Manuel Otero Alcantara (also currently in jail), the part recorded in Cuba of the video for “Patria y vida”, in which the musicians also participate. Yotuel romero, Descemer Good and the duo People of the Zone.
Produced between Havana and Miami, the issue (which rewrites Fidel Castro’s slogan “fatherland or death”) questions some of the most urgent social problems facing the island, from the housing situation or the lack of food to advocating for a political change.
The song went viral, reached millions of views on YouTube and became the slogan of those who came out to protest in Cuba in the massive anti-government demonstrations on July 11.
“It is incredible the journey that Maykel has taken in such a short time. He began as one more in a marginal neighborhood of Havana, with a precarious life, with a history of infinite inaccessibility, to become internationally known, not only for ‘ Patria y vida ‘, but because of his activism, “says Ramos.
Cuban authorities deny that Osorbo is an “artist” and assure that he is a “mercenary” who receives money from the US, who follows CIA manuals and who seeks to star in “farces” and “media shows” to draw attention.
What else does the government say
The island’s authorities and official media have described “Patria y vida” as a musical theme “rag and coward” and have called its authors “rats”, “mercenaries” and “enemies of Cuba.”
The official newspaper Granma questioned the Latin Grammy ceremony on Friday and considered that the song won for its political message and not for its musical values.
The Communist Party publication called “Patria y vida” a “monstrosity” and “a pamphlet produced and designed based on the attempted soft coup that the previous and current United States government (…) concocted to subvert the political system and social adopted by the vast majority of Cubans. “
The controversy surrounding the song, which cannot be heard on the island’s radio stations or television channels, has even reached the highest levels of the country.
The president of Cuba himself, Miguel Díaz-Canel, has criticized it on Twitter on several occasions and has even discussed it with other leaders in the region.
At the last Celac summit held in Mexico, the president publicly attacked the president of Uruguay, Luis Lacalle, who had previously recited fragments of “Patria y vida”.
“It seems that President Lacalle has very bad taste in music. That song is totally a lie and a construction among some artists against the Cuban revolution,” he said.
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Maikel Osorbo, the Cuban rapper who won two Grammys from prison and in a “delicate state of health” – BBC News Mundo