'Despacito' boosts tourism in Puerto Rico's La Perla

Published 01.08.2017 00:04

Something unusual is happening in La Perla, a poor barrio clinging to a steep hillside between Old San Juan and the sea where the video for the pop hit "Despacito" was filmed.

"The gringos are coming!"

Outsiders were afraid to venture in before, but since Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee's megahit, tourists from all over the world are descending on the narrow streets that wind among La Perla's brightly colored houses.

"Despacito?" they inquire.

And the barrio's residents obligingly point out the locations where the video was filmed: the rocks facing the sea where Fonsi sings the refrain, the sea wall where ex-Miss Universe Zuleyka Rivera strolls, the little plaza where men play dominoes - the tables and chairs just as they were in the video. With the video on the verge of becoming the most watched on YouTube (2.9 billion visits since January, fast approaching the 2.98 billion record held by Wiz Khalifa's "See You Again"), a barrio once burdened with a bad reputation is now a tourist hot spot. With 1,600 inhabitants, it is one of the poorest communities in San Juan. Drug trafficking largely drives its economy, with the government trying in vain to clear it. Marwan Badran, Hotels.com's manager for Latin America, said online searches for hotel rooms in Puerto Rico shot up 45 percent this year.

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