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What Does the Music of Puerto Rico Say About Puerto Ricans?


Looking for Work - p 6

Looking for Work

Knowing "someone" certainly helps when you are looking for a job. In Puerto Rico, knowing someone in the political party that currently holds power, is a common requisite.

Famous Puerto Rican trombonist, arranger and salsa pioneer, Willie Colón, in his song:  Ah-ah, No-no, sings...

Ah, ah, No, no (partial lyrics)

Hoy salí a formar la fila
en la oficnia de empleo
salí sudandome el dia

Cuando dí mis documentos
me pidieron la tarjeta
de un padrino en el partido

Y asi se me escurre el dia
tocando de puerto en puerta
tomando lo que aparezca

Yo, buscando pa' trabajar
voy por las calles de la cuidad

Yo soy todo un professional
pero no encuentro pa' trabajar

Today I went to get in line
at the Employment Office
I left sweating the day

When I gave them my papers
they asked for the business card
of a godfather in the party

And thus the drips on
knocking door to door
taking what comes

I, looking for work,
go down the streets of the city

I am a professional
but don't find any work

Lyrics translated by Jaime Serrat

While the scenario is not unique to Puerto Rico, it is certainly distinct from most developed countries where political affiliation is of little or no consequence outside the higher echelon government jobs. In short, the ratio of government patronage jobs to the total job market in Puerto Rico is significantly higher.

Thus, having a business card showing the political position of your "godfather", representing any family connection to the political party, is often needed, particularly for professional level jobs.

The value of having the right political connection, however, should not be confused with the related Puerto Rican tradition of having "pala" to help get a job. "Pala" means shovel, but refers to having an inside connection or good reference.

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