El Costo De La Vida (The Cost Of Life)

Jose Vilson Jose

Cost of Living

In “El Costo De La Vida (The Cost Of Life)”, Juan Luis Guerra starts off the song like he and his friends are reading straight from a stack of newspapers he’s got on his desk. Check the flow:

El costo de la vida sube otra vez
el peso que baja ya ni se ve
y las habichuelas no se pueden comer
ni una libra de arroz ni una cuarta de café
a nadie le importa qué piense usted
será porque aquí no hablamos inglés
ah ah es verdad.. ah ah e’ verdad. ah ah e’ verdad .
do you understand?

which translates to:

The cost of life goes up again
The peso goes down, can’t even see it
And the beans can’t be eaten
Not even a pound of rice or a quart of coffee
No one cares what you think
Perhaps it’s because we don’t speak English
Ah ah it’s the truth, ah ah it’s the truth, ah ah it’s the truth
Do you understand?

And it’s funny because August, a friend of mine and a social activist in her own right, wrote up a rant describing how contradictory it is for the government to lean towards the removal of social welfare but bail out Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac by simply printing new money for them. And it’s not just happening in the United States but in Guerra’s homeland, Dominican Republic.

During my last visit, I noticed 3 quick indications of the strife and turmoil afflicting the people of Dominican Republic:

1. The peso is of such little value that when the cash register rings up in decimals, cashiers round up to the nearest peso or even the nearest tens place.

2. Crime has risen extremely high in the neighborhood I resided in, to the point where there seems to be an unwritten curfew where everyone double- and triple-locks their doors and gates.

3. The worst threat that many conservative Dominicans perceived was the influx of Haitian immigrants who pedaled everything from peanuts and lollipops to coconuts and pineapples, not the lack of economic or political growth in the country, lack of jobs, or even a nice and clean environment for their kids to play.

And it’s with this passion that a man from even affluent beginnings became the Bohemian philanthropist we know him as today. The anger and despondence of the people he sought to represent his whole career is even more elucidated when we witness the video for said song, banned by several countries for having an anti-American / anti-capitalist message. He probably found out right then and there how powerful his music had become: a strong political message over a seductive merengue beat.

In these kinds of conditions, how could you be moderate? How could you NOT take a side?

la corrupción pa arriba
ya ve pa’ riba tu ves
y el peso que baja
ya ve pobre ni se ve
y la delicuencia
ya ve me pilló otra vez
aquí no se cura
ya ve ni un callo en el pie

y ahora el desempleo
ya ve me mordió también
a nadie le importa noo
ni a la mitsubishi ya ve ni a la chevrolet

English Translation:

The corruption goes up
You see, it goes up you see
And the peso goes down
You see, you don’t even see the poor
And the crime
You see, they pillaged me again
Here it’s never cured
You see, not even the callus in my foot

and now the unemployment
You see, it bit me too
You don’t matter to anyone, no
Not to Mitsubishi, you see, and not to Chevrolet …

For your listening pleasure: “El Costo De La Vida” by Juan Luis Guerra (YouTube)

… to be continued tomorrow

jose, who knows the cost of living is costing us our lives …