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'Despacito' is good for Puerto Rico
02:02 - Source: CNNMoney
CNN  — 

“Despacito” is breaking records as one of the summer’s hottest songs, but for the singer-songwriter behind the track, it’s also a love letter to his home island of Puerto Rico.

“I wanted to pay homage to where I’m from,” Luis Fonsi told CNN. “Throughout my career, I have never really sang a song that had to do with Puerto Rico because my songs were always a little bit more on the romantic side. ‘Despacito’ just lent itself to just kind of play around with that.”

Related: The story behind ‘Despacito’s’ rise to the top

Fonsi lived in Puerto Rico until age 11, and still owns a home there, he said. The music video was filmed in La Perla, a shanty town on the Atlantic coast just outside of Old San Juan. The area, known for its high crime and poverty rates, is separated from the capital city by a wall.

“I probably would have never written a melody like that if I wasn’t raised there,” Fonsi said. “That’s just in my blood. I grew up listening to my dad’s salsa records.”

The music video includes a display of beautiful beaches and colorful buildings, with young and old Puerto Ricans dancing on the streets side-by-side. All of the the people who appear in the video are locals from La Perla and Old San Juan.

In the lyric “this is how we do it down in Puerto Rico,” Fonsi wanted to convey that he is showcasing the best of Puerto Rico in a time when the island is mired in economic problems.

“I see the struggles, especially the economic struggles that Puerto Rico is going through,” Fonsi said. “It’s just coming together, the US government, the Puerto Rican government, and the people coming together and figuring out a way to do it the correct way so people can enjoy the island the way that it’s meant to be enjoyed. That’s what I wanted for everybody to see through this song.”

Times have changed since Fonsi was a kid in Puerto Rico. The US territory has been in a recession since 2006 and according to the US census data, poverty rates are almost at 50%, double that of the most impoverished state in America. The island has been plagued by Zika, and was only recently downgraded to a level II threat by the Centers for Disease Control.