El B, from the legendary Cuban hip-hop group Los Aldeanos, just released his sixth solo album, Luz. This year he was nominated for the Best Urban Music Album at the Latin Grammys, and while he didn’t take home the prize, his album remains incredibly relevant, highlighting Cuba’s tumultuous past and ongoing political struggle—between the Cuban people and their government, between Cuban immigrants to the U.S., and between the governments of Cuba and the U.S.
This album comes at a perfect time to reflect on Cuba’s future after the passing of Fidel Castro on Friday, November 25, 2016. Read on for our analysis of one powerful song from the new record, or click here to read our recent interview with the artist.
One song from the album, “Emigrante,” speaks volumes to the long-standing immigration path from Cuba to the United States. El B’s vibrancy and passion for Cuba’s political issues shines a personal and intimate light on the situation. His is a much-needed voice of honesty in a time when immigrants are often treated as a group of indeseables. Here are five messages from the song that will wake your insides.
Moms departing from their children
Again night is bed
of an escape plan while another mother presses a photo against her chest
the sea is the distance between a frog
a kiss of blessing, protection and promise to the Virgin of the Regla
One of the most painful parts of immigration is departing from family. The immigrant is emotionally and intellectually affected, but probably most distressed is the mom left behind who doesn’t know if her child will survive. Right now, there is a huge wave of young children migrating from Central America to the United States due to deep social issues in their home countries. They are sent away by their family members, oftentimes by their mothers, who want a better life for them.
another flight of a land seemingly cursed
condemned to his story again and again repeats
consumed by the fire of a tyrant and his ego
against a people who claim to be brave sick with fear
This phrase tells the story of a government that continues to place restraints on its people in ways that lead to further desire to escape, such as the prohibition of traveling outside the country. Here El B talks about Fidel Castro and his ego—the cause, he believes, of the Cuban people’s repeated subjugation. Although the people claim to be brave in face of these social issues, he feels that they are in fact living in fear.
Self-identification as an immigrant
Some came, others could not
for some have no name or nationality, are now only ferrymen
after the American Dream
cynically saying: “Dreaming with being rich and dreaming of being free is not the same”
America built its identity on the Dream, where everyone can come and create a better life for themselves. That Dream still exists in people’s minds and immigrants continue to come. But the potential to make it in America has diminished, leaving many new citizens trapped in a cycle of privation similar to the one they left behind.
broken families, hunger
Mothers who never saw their son, children who never knew their parents
overwhelming decline in the sleeping caiman (similar to an alligator), agonizing
to which their worms keep alive
El B then describes an immigrant’s journey by using the metaphor of a caiman, a semi-nocturnal reptile, similar to an alligator that inhabits areas such as swamps and mangrove rivers. In these areas of unsuitable habitats for a human, the immigrant undergoes mental distress. His reference to which their worms keep alive may be tapeworms humans can develop in their stomachs by drinking contaminated water, consuming uncooked meat or even eating dirt.
This part of the song expresses the brutality of familial separation, which may be educational for some listeners while providing catharsis for others.
Winds of change and hope
but the average Cuban, continues to walk, walks 60 years and does not advance
Dance does not believe false praise and suffers
While Lucifer governs hell, everything will continue to reek of sulfur
The first line of this song talks about those immigrants who had the courage to leave their homelands reflecting the winds of change and hope.
But as you go into the second line, he talks about the cuban who decided to stay and continue to repeat the cycle of believing what they are told and suffering for ideals that are contradictory to their reality. In this verse, he ends with mentioning Lucifer (Satan), which may be a veiled reference to Castro or the overall immoral energy in the universe. As long as Lucifer continues to rule us and we (the Cuban people) don’t change the way we think, our circumstances will continue to be the same.