Remember the Despacito song? The one that goes –
“Despacito, Quiero respirar tu cuello despacito, Deja que te diga cosas al oído, Para que te acuerdes si no estás conmigo” Yes, that song by Luis Fonsi https://www.luisfonsi.com and Daddy Yankkee https://www.daddyyankee.com and later remixed by Justin Bieber https://www.justinbiebermusic.com. For me the song was great but what I enjoy the most is that they made the music video at this old and “scary” yet vibrant and full of character little barrio (neighborhood) in Old San Juan on the Island of Puerto Rico.
The Despacito music video was filmed throughout the neighborhood but the main dance scene was in front of El Chinchorro (small Bar and food stand) Placita de la Perla.
While this is a colorful and vibrant little neighborhood now in 2020, back on the day it was not a town for everyone to visit. I’m from a small town of the west part of the island, the town of Aguadilla, two hours always from San Juan and we always heard stories from friends and saw in the news many things that happened in La Perla.
As I sated earlier “old beaten up and scary” is for two reasons; 1st – Old and beaten up because La Perla was established in the late 19th century and has been damaged be storms waves, sea salt, bad local economy among other issues.
2nd – Scary because initially during the late 1900s the area was the site of a slaughterhouse and between the 60s and the 90’s el barrio had high levels of prostitution, drugs and crime.
La Perla is located right in between the forts of San Cristobal and El Morro, two of the most significant historic landmarks, part of San Juan National History Site. Being on this location it make it easer for tourist to walk in and out el barrio.
On the bright side of the story, we are in 2020 and life has change in Puerto Rico and significantly in La Perla. After the Despacito song, other video productions, infrastructure renovations, new bars and the warm and welcoming personalities of the local residents of La Perla, now anyone can walk through this enchanted Puerto Rican barrio.
Of course, you don’t walk and do as you please in other people’s barrios, there is always rules and regulations. You have to be mindful to the local residents and their daily routines. If you are curious like me and like to take pictures of everything, they will be watching you and you could be approached by some of the locals like it happened to me. But they will guide you and tell you were to take and were not to take pictures of el barrio.
But don’t be alarm, nothing will happen to you, be friendly, talk to the locals, buy a few alcapurrias and empanadillas, (Puerto Rican Turnovers) and for sure try a Malta India and a Medalla beer.
Please go visit and enjoy your time in La Perla. Eat, drink, dance, talk to the local residents and believe me, you will have plenty of story to tell your friends and family when you go back home.