On hot afternoons in Barranquilla, artist Lido Pimienta would meet the women who made orange juice or sold empanadas on the street, often accompanied by their babies. When Lido asked them why they worked so hard, “it was always the same narrative.” It was mostly for a man, or rather for the shared enterprise of their relationship. He typically worked little, and so she had to work more. But despite that, there was always infidelity.
These stories inspired Colombia-raised, Canada-based Lido Pimienta to not only cover Rihanna’s “Work,” but to shake it up a little. Despite the universality of its message, Lido’s cover is regional, crafted in distinct Barranquilla slang.
Exhibit A: Work becomes “camellando” – the major pastime of the song’s speaker – while her lover spends all day “vagabundeando.” Those street vendors would go on to tell Pimienta about how they blamed themselves, rather their work, for their beloved’s wandering eye.
“Yo sé que tu me quieres, a tu manera tu me quieres,” sings the speaker. It’s a way of giving credit to someone who probably doesn’t deserve it – or rationalizing bad behavior because it hurts too much not to.
And it’s not just these women who take the lion’s share of the emotional and financial work. “This is the way I grew up,” explains Pimienta. “I think it’s because you know, in Latin households – women are the ones that run everything.” Instead of washing her brothers’ clothes as a little girl, Pimienta would pick up her bike and explain to her mom that he had his own two hands. But for most women, she says, the extra work starts early.
Pimienta compares that power imbalance to the treatment of her home region, La Guajira. The resource-rich, historically indigenous area has experienced environmental and economic exploitation. But the region’s contributions to the country are rarely acknowledged, she says.
In the second half of the song, Pimienta’s speaker takes a stronger stance. The message becomes less about wanting a lover back (even after he “took my heart and my keys and my patience”) and more about setting a boundary.
“I know that you love me in your own way, and I know that you want to prove your manhood by having all these side chicks over here, but I also want you to respect me, because – estás mondao – you’re broke!” she says. “And if you don’t get your shit together,” she adds, “I’m going to leave you.”