Protest songs that shook all of Latin America

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The history of many Latin American countries can be perfectly described with music. Here we present some songs that have sounded strong in social crisis.

Group of people at a protest

Social commitment, denunciation or resistance have also inspired numerous songs that today can be considered as hymns. Photo: Pixabay

LatinAmerican Post | Theoscar Mogollón González

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Leer en español: Canciones de protesta que sacudieron a toda América Latina

Latin America is a very rich region in terms of history. Over the years, protests in each of the countries have been asserted and music has witnessed this since it narrates events such as violent conquest, the looting of resources, cultural appropriation, and even the social crises. Getting rid of the yoke of "first world" countries was only the first step towards our independence.

However, the question always arises as to how free we have really been. It is no secret to anyone that Latin America continues to have its setbacks over the years; and it is that economic dependence, repeated invasions, political and social crises, left and right dictatorships, misgovernments, and abuse of power, are some of the pretexts that are emerging for the peoples to rise up and protest in defense of their rights.

With this series of conflicts and traumas on the surface, music has become the most far-reaching chronicler, generating saving movements at times and unfavorable reactions at others. It is those festive rhythms and captivating melodies, as well as the conceptual scaffolding of its composers, that have made sure that protest songs throughout Latin America never stop.

These movements had their origin many years ago, so there are hundreds of examples that will be left out of this list. The small selection of songs that we bring you below has its thickness in the 70s, a strong time for many in the continent, in addition to a couple of songs that continue to remind us that this theme is still valid in this decade.

"El pueblo unido" - Sergio Ortega and Quilapayún

Chile lived through a difficult time during the socialist government of Salvador Allende, who was overthrown by a military coup in 1973. This song became an anthem of the left, which was precisely recorded during that year by the Quilapayún group shortly before of that act that left painful sequels in many people.

«Dirán canción de libertad. Con decisión la patria vencerá. Y ahora el pueblo que se alza en la lucha, con voz de gigante gritando: ¡adelante!»

"Techos de cartón" - Alí Primera

This Venezuelan musician and political activist was a much loved and influential figure in his country. For 1974 he raised this issue where he mentions the working class that was exploited in a time when Venezuela was beginning to live on oil income. This situation continued for several years.

«Usted no lo va a creer, pero hay escuelas de perros y les dan educación pa' que no muerdan los diarios. Pero el patrón, hace años, muchos años, que está mordiendo al obrero»

"La vida no vale nada" - Pablo Milanés

Latin America was in the orbit of a chimerical narrative of altruism, social justice, equality, inclusion, and liberation after the first years of Fidel Castro at the head of his revolution in Cuba. It was in this environment that the great musician Pablo Milanés joined the collective passion in 1976.

«La vida no vale nada si se sorprende a mi hermano cuando supe de antemano lo que se le preparaba. La vida no vale nada si cuatro caen por minuto y al final por el abuso se decide la jornada»

"Guillermo Tell" - Carlos Varela

At the end of the 1980s, the new generation of Cubans born in the post-Castro era came of age. Precisely those children of the Revolution already perceived that smell of unfulfilled promises, so they began to demand their rights. The situation on the island was taking a 180-degree turn.

«Guillermo Tell, tu hijo creció. Quiere tirar la flecha. Le toca a él probar su valor usando tu ballesta. Guillermo Tell no le gustó la idea y se negó a ponerse la manzana en la cabeza diciendo que no era que no creyera, pero qué iba a pasar si sale mal la flecha»

Also read: Social protest in the cinema: how has it been represented?

"Viajero" - Banda Bostik

The migratory crisis in Mexico is only one of the many problems of reality that they have had over the last few years. Crossing the border at any cost to seek the so-called American dream was the main theme of this band that achieved empathy with a whole generation in Latin America during the early 90s.

«Voy camino al extranjero y estoy refugiado en un sucio vagón, voy de aventuras y también de hacer dinero. Soy ilegal y me escondo de la migración»

"La bala" - Calle 13

The new generation of artists counted on the Puerto Rican group, led by René Pérez, as the spokesperson for these social songs. This 2010 theme is full of metaphors that represent a call for awareness about the serious problem of violence that is spreading virally throughout the geography of our continent.

«Hay poco dinero, pero hay muchas balas. Hay poca comida, pero hay muchas balas. Hay poca gente buena, por eso hay muchas balas. Cuidao' que ahí viene una»

"Patria y vida" - Yotuel, Descemer Bueno, Gente de Zona, Maykel Osorbo and El Funky

With all the movement that continues to occur in Latin America, 2021 has not been the exception with protests. While the focus of this song is Cuba, it can easily be applied to other regions. These artists have as triggers for their denunciation of the dictatorial imposition of a government, economic disasters, gagged generations, and the lack of freedom of expression.

«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»