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Workin' For The Weekend: Alt.Latino's Songs For Labor Day

Work: You may sometimes dislike it, but you always want it in your life.

This week on Alt.Latino, we celebrate Labor Day with a mix of songs about working hard and wanting a vacation: A Chilean band sings about the joy of having a job after being unemployed, a Brazilian rocker offers up an ode to the overworked and underpaid, a Dominican female MC delivers a musical poem about an immigrant's toil and an Argentine group refuses to work 9 to 5.

We also take a moment to discuss Victor Jara, a Chilean folk icon and major influence on Latin rock; his ode to a miner's life resonates with news of the 33 Chilean workers trapped in a notoriously dangerous mine.

As always, we hope you join in the conversation and discuss your favorite songs about labor (or lack thereof).

Copyright 2024 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Voy a Trabajar

"Voy a Trabajar"

Felix picked "Voy a Trabajar" (I Am Going to Work) by the Chilean band Los Prisioneros; it's about a guy who's finally found work. Partly a love song for the woman in his life, it's also an ode to the joy of having a job. Los Prisioneros' members have always been socially conscious and politically active. Their 1987 album La Cultura de la Basura criticized the military regime in power at the time, and led to the band being blacked out by mainstream Chilean media.



This song by Brazilian rocker Seu Jorge is an ode to the hard-working, underpaid men and women in every type of industry. It's part anthem, part protest song; I like that Seu Jorge sounds like he's vocalizing through a bullhorn. "Brazilian worker, you work all day like a donkey and make no money,” he sings.



The Los Angeles band Wait.Think.Fast has this great new album out featuring "Jornaleras," the title of which refers to a female day laborer. The group, fronted by Argentine singer and pianist Jacqueline Santillan, sings in English and Spanish and incorporates a lot of traditional Latin American instruments like charango (a guitar traditionally from northern Argentina and Bolivia). The words to "Jornaleras," sung in a desperate voice by Santillan, capture the pain of their subject's working conditions. "I walk to the train with only a coffee in my belly," she sings. "Come on woman, we're waiting for you, change your skin, change your faith."

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Canción del Minero

"Canción del Minero"

Since part of today's show discusses workers who are surviving difficult conditions, we wanted to pay special attention to a group currently in a great deal of danger. Thirty-three Chilean miners have been trapped in one of that country's most notorious mines since Aug. 5. While all are alive more than 2,000 feet underground, they might not be able to be rescued until December. Chilean folk icon Victor Jara sang about miners' difficult work in the '60s, but this beautiful tune still strikes a chord today.

La Hora de Volve

Jasmine picked this song because, well, she's crazy for Rita Indiana, a merengue techno artist from the Dominican Republic. In "La Hora de Volve" (It's Time to Go Back), Indiana sings about a guy who moved to New York to work, and after nine years of working his butt off decides it's time to head back home. Indiana is also an acclaimed novelist, which is why her songs often play out like short stories: "You survived like a lion, you made such an effort that by the end you were left with only half a testicle, you worked sewing buttons, you glued zippers with your hands and mouth... you worked lifting refrigerators with five cows stuffed inside... and on a cold New York winter, you saw yourself dead, the snow was falling on your numb body and you had a vision of a disco, of two dark-skinned women drinking a beer under a canopy of trees. The time has come, Papi, to hop on a cloud and go back home."

La Guitarra


In "La Guitarra" (The Guitar), Argentine ska-rock band Los Autenticos Decadentes re-enacts an argument between a father and a son. The son refuses to take a 9-to-5 job and says he wants to play his guitar all day. The father is sick of the son's shenanigans, and of his drinking all the beer in the house. Jasmine recently saw this band perform live, and she says it's one of the most enjoyable concerts she's attended in a long time.

Jasmine Garsd
Jasmine Garsd is an Argentine-American journalist living in New York. She is currently NPR's Criminal Justice correspondent and the host of The Last Cup. She started her career as the co-host of Alt.Latino, an NPR show about Latin music. Throughout her reporting career she's focused extensively on women's issues and immigrant communities in America. She's currently writing a book of stories about women she's met throughout her travels.
Felix Contreras
Felix Contreras is co-creator and co-host of Alt.Latino, NPR's pioneering radio show and podcast celebrating Latin music and culture since 2010.