Ilustración: Camilo Nieto
Ilustración: Camilo Nieto

We must wake up, and the rice burn

16 minutos / Susana Gomes Bugallo

03.08.2020 / Reportages

"This is my time and who says no! / I'm going down and the rice is burning." The melody and lyrics of this song still play among Cuban feminists, and like this catchy chorus by the duo La Reyna and La Real, there are several musical themes on the Island that speak of female emancipation, gender equality and the fight for rights. of women from all over the world.

Some of the artists who make music on the Island are committed to the causes of feminism and the battle against violence against women and girls, and have joined the institutional campaigns taking place in the country. Others establish alliances with civil society or make their positions clear on social networks; And there are those who also compose thinking about how to express what they think, live and feel regarding gender discrimination.

There are many ways to be feminist. And the same fingerboard of possibilities is open for each creator to choose how to tell their experiences and what to do with the opportunity and responsibility of being a public person. From the clothes they wear, the musical alliances they choose, a post on social networks and a symbolic movement on stage ... Everything is transmitted and reaches the audience. There are plenty of international examples of how the positions of personalities in the entertainment industry can create revolutions. And Cuba should not be the exception within this gender justice movement. Some paths have already been traced in that direction, even when we are only on the threshold of a long journey.

Upstream women

Uno de los primeros nombres que sale a la luz cuando se pregunta por mujeres con posturas feministas en el escenario musical cubano es el de Rochy Ameneiro. La artista lleva alrededor de diez años al frente de una lucha por ofrecer a las mujeres el espacio que merecen en la sociedad. Es la fundadora del proyecto Todas Contracorriente —cuyo tema musical es de la autoría de la cantautora pinareña Yamira Díaz—  y, como tal, ha organizado varios eventos en los que diversas creadoras de la Isla se unen para compartir su arte.

According to Rochy, there are several Cuban singers who address feminist themes in their texts, and among the examples she points to Telmary and La Reina and La Real. They are artists, he says, who from their proposals criticize "the position of the man as a provider and the woman as a domestic figure, fulfilling the tasks of the house (habitual situation of machismo) and put as a solution the liberation of women from those roles".

For Rochy, any non-sexist text that promotes equal rights between women and men, and respect for individual freedom, can be a feminist discourse. In her case, she thinks of herself as “an interpreter of songs that respect the public, free from sexism and aggressive language, that make women visible.

“I am a feminist because I defend equal rights between men and women. I use my spaces as an artist to promote the culture of peace and I try to consult with specialists on the subject to send messages that educate on the way to a better society ”, he defends.

The singer-songwriter incorporated feminism into her repertoire, her audiovisuals, her projection as an artist and her way of life. The Countercurrent theme and its self-titled video that celebrated, in 2012, the centenary of this movement in Cuba - we must remember that in 1912 several Cuban women came out to fight for their rights; in November of that year, for example, the Popular Feminist Party was founded in Havana, it is one of her works, where she joined Omara Portuondo and other art professionals.

Ilustración: Camilo Nieto.

Ilustración: Camilo Nieto.

Feminist struggle: awakening

The work on social networks and in various physical spaces in which she supports the claims of the LGTBIQ + community, make Haydée Milanés one of the most vocal Cuban singers in the fight for equity. However, Haydée herself considers that her lyrics do not have a feminist discourse specifically, although her songs and the ones she performs do not degrade women or men. "I believe in mutual respect. I believe in human beings ”, he says.

For her, the feminist discourse must begin with the recognition of all the injustices that have been committed against women throughout history. "You must defend equity between both genders and respect for us. I educate my daughter thinking about equity, because I believe that education for women from a very young age is vital. Many of the misconceptions we have come from childhood, with small macho 'teachings' that they give us. Of course, mothers don't do it on purpose, but are things that they unconsciously repeat because they received them that way. ”

The realities that concern her have marked her behavior and activism. Haydée thinks that her current training was influenced by the great disparities that she has seen in society in relation to the rights of women and men. “It is not about written laws, but about human behavior, about the education that is given to men and women. From a very young age they teach them to have many girlfriends, that women are the ones who cook, wash and scrub. That if they have had many partners they are whores. They also teach us that we should not be alone on the streets. I have always been envious of men who can sit alone in a park and listen to music. I have never been able to do that without being besieged by some guy who asks me what I do so alone, or who starts to masturbate, looking at me. It is something that has to change.

"We must respect the space of women and the right to be free, not only to walk the streets without being disturbed, but also to express their criteria, and be taken into account without being ridiculed or teased for their gender.

On the other hand, we must continue fighting to occupy more spaces of power, where we make important decisions for the country. I think that in Cuba there is a very masculine energy in most of the provisions at the government level. I am sure that things are going to be better, they will be much more balanced, if we have our feminine energy, ”says the artist.

Haydée also thinks that the worst thing, when we look at the whole picture, is violence against women, who beat them, rape them and kill them. “That is why we are fighting for a Comprehensive Law against mistreatment of women and girls, which not only condemns the guilty, but also protects those who are threatened, so that they do not come to attack, rape or kill them. This is something that is happening, it is not normal and we must wake up. We need that when a woman goes to report this type of aggression, it is taken into account, and she can have a space where she has all the necessary protection, ”she summarizes.

Ilustración: Camilo Nieto.

Ilustración: Camilo Nieto.

Sauce for men?

La música popular bailable cubana es un territorio minado por el machismo y la discriminación hacia aquellas mujeres que pretenden marcar la diferencia. Haila María Mompié se ha ganado su lugar en un «mundo de hombres». Y también ha tenido enfrentamientos al luchar por sus derechos en esta escena.

“For no one it is a secret and I have always said it: I have suffered it firsthand throughout my career for the simple fact of being a woman and a singer of timba, a very macho musical genre. Little by little, with a lot of work, I have made my way and I have shown them that being a woman is not an impediment at all, ”says the artist, who also considers that people with the possibility of communicating with thousands of spectators face duty and the responsibility to support and contribute positively with this convening tool.

“I am one of the artists who likes to sing songs with common sense, with a message, a teaching. Add to this that I am a hundred percent feminist. When I touch on the subject of women, I try to open their eyes and give them the strength that many need. I aim to motivate, support and make them feel protected and valued. "

Para Haila sus canciones tienen un mensaje feminista porque muchas mujeres se ven reflejadas en esas vivencias que alguna vez han experimentado en carne propia. “Soy una mujer —como ellas— valiente, luchadora, emprendedora e independiente. Esa seguridad es la que intento trasmitir para que la sientan en mis canciones. En mis composiciones también viaja la realidad de muchas de nosotras y resalto nuestros valores. Dibujo temas como la igualdad de derechos, el empoderamiento femenino y el papel que jugamos en la sociedad”, dice.

Haila - who also collaborates with various campaigns and organizations in defense of women's rights such as I say no, from Unesco, and Join, from the UN - believes that if feminist discourse comes from another woman, it is more credible. And that this must be direct, sincere and transparent. As the artist sees it, this intention is evident throughout her discography.

Ilustración: Camilo Nieto.

Ilustración: Camilo Nieto.

The rice burned, so what?

Two women, black, rappers, began their musical career in 2012, with the purpose of giving greater visibility to women in the world of hip hop in Cuba. La Reyna and La Real have already let the rice burn (with that song in which the woman leaves home for a day so that the man can take care of the housework) and a few months ago they starred in one of the themes of the National Campaign Evolves due to Non Violence against Women.

According to Yadira Pintado (La Real), the message that her music transmits is one of feminine empowerment and equality, and not of a struggle of women over men. "We advocate for the awakening of the talent that many women have hidden and that do not bring to light due to the fears and prejudices of which society itself has made them part."

Dentro de esas artistas que también las acompañan, señala a Telmary porque “desde su posición de rapera ha logrado con talento y esfuerzo posicionarse en un lugar donde muchos no esperaban. Ese es el mensaje mayor (con acciones), que una mujer puede ser lo que ella se proponga”. Igualmente describen que las Krudxs Cubensi son de las pocas que abrieron las puertas a otras raperas en el género. Aunque La Reyna y La Real dicen que tampoco se puede dejar de mencionar a orquestas de música popular como es el caso de Las Canelas, Anacaona, entre otras.

For La Real, her music has a feminist character because women are the center of the discourse. "But not from a victim's gaze in which we remember all the time what men do not allow us to do, but from the position in which we show that we can, even without the support of the male sex," she explains.

"We call ourselves feminists because we think that, like women, men have been victims of a consecutive message that confirms them as the boss, the male, the one who doesn't cry."

Reyna Hernández (La Reyna), for her part, adds that feminist discourse must be distinguished by the empowerment of women and by speaking from the difference in all psychological, social, spiritual and political aspects.

"We launched messages with that intention due to the need to raise the voice of women based on our experiences and others that touch us very closely," he says.

Ilustración: Camilo Nieto.

Ilustración: Camilo Nieto.

Free is the word

A few years ago we heard him recommend to women not to get carried away by the flawed guidelines of the music market. And her career is the result of the constant challenge to the expected sounds and poses. Her lyrics convince and emancipate. For Eme Alfonso, being different and challenging has been a life choice.

She says that she tries to support women by denouncing the violence, mistreatment, inequality and social stigma that we have always suffered. That fight takes her through the videos, the interviews and the lyrics of her songs, because she thinks about the feminist discourse of her music before doing each song.

“I put lyrics and sound to a fixed idea that I want to express about these problems. My music is the way to carry the message ”, she says while pointing as her recipe to the idea of fearlessly addressing the issues that concern her when composing.

The author of Libre y Voy, among other songs with a strong feminist discourse, defends her intention to write these topics because she is concerned that today's girls live tomorrow in the same circumstances. She also considers it an obligation because our mothers fought great battles and it is a duty to do the same.

“I am inspired by my life and my experiences to write; they are my source of information. Each experience is a possible story. If I have had to exist at a time when machismo is still rooted and I see it and suffer it day by day, then I have to talk about it, ”he argues.

For Eme, among the representatives of feminism in Cuban music - in addition to many of the artists already mentioned in this text - we must also include the instrumentalists who defend their art despite the fact that they face a terrain dominated mostly by men.

That is one of Eme's big concerns: professional discrimination. “Women in my profession have fewer opportunities: at night shows, at festivals, at record labels. We are assigned more stereotypes than men, not to mention wage inequality. And I say all this from my own experience ”.

Ilustración: Camilo Nieto.

Ilustración: Camilo Nieto.

To the krudo and without a glove

Krudxs Cubensi son un referente de las luchas feministas dentro de la música en Cuba. Nadie que piense en esta manifestación deja de señalar a este grupo nacido en 1999 en La Habana y cuyas integrantes son consideradas pioneras del hip hop feminista queer en su país, Latinoamérica y el mundo.

Desde el primer momento piensan su arte como un arma para luchar por los derechos, contra la opresión del sistema colonialista heteropatriarcal, por la justicia social, por las comunidades, por el planeta. Y así son reconocidas en más de 100 ciudades del mundo.

Her staging and the lyrics of her songs can be considered a complete rebellion against the rules. The trance into which their actions enter defends a radical position of feminism, always bearing in mind that, for them, a feminist discourse must be marked by intersectionality.

“For us, if it is racist, it is not feminist; if it is pigment-democratic, it is not feminist; if it is homophobic, it is not feminist; if it is transphobic, it is not feminist; if she is a capacitist, she is not a feminist; if she is bourgeois, she is not a feminist ”. It's that simple and radical.

Por eso no podían llegar a otro camino que a este. De sus vidas no podía salir otro arte. “Es testimonial, visceral, autobiográfico, es desde dentro de nosotrxs. ¿Cómo no ser feministas siendo las personas que somos? ¿Cómo no ser feministas viviendo en el mundo en el que vivimos? ¿Cómo no ser feministas en la Cuba que nacimos y crecimos? Feminismo es nuestra existencia. Por eso todas nuestras canciones tienen el discurso en esa sintonía”. No quedan dudas.

Krudxs Cubensi holds that “the message of his music regarding women, femininity, and trans people is about empowerment, self-esteem, awakening, denouncing machista injustices, protesting against heteropatriarchal colonial hegemony , of self-care, of liberation and of necessary prominence after so many centuries of oppression.

“Also respect for diversity, because not all women are oppressed equally. Black, indigenous, trans, impoverished, fat, non-binary women with diverse capacities are our priority and should be the priority of the world ”, they comment.

"Krudxs feminism is obviously queer, black, vegan, Cuban, trans, intersectional, emigrant, worker, popular, empirical, testimonial, autobiographical, diverse, not in accordance with cisgender binarism, feminism, because we are all of that, because we live it in our own embodiment, is in each of our experiences, lyrics, presences, our voices and musical concepts. Krudxs we are ”.

“El feminismo de Krudxs es obviamente queer, negro, vegano, cubano, trans, interseccional, emigrante, obrero, popular, empírico, testimonial, autobiográfico, diverso, no conforme con binarismo cisgénero, feminisme, porque todo eso somos, porque lo vivimos en nuestra propia corporeidad, está en cada una de nuestras vivencias, líricas, presencias, nuestras voces y conceptos musicales. Krudxs somos”.

They, like the rest of the interviewees, agree that all the women who make music on the Island could think of themselves as feminists, even if there are variants of thought. But the bottom line is that "being a woman is itself a perpetual act of feminism."

Susana Gomes Bugallo

Susana Gomes Bugallo

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