To All Lyric Breakdowns

An image of Shakira’s third studio album, Pies Descalzos.

Pies Descalzos, Sueños Blancos by Shakira

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This blog post gives a breakdown of the grammar and vocabulary in Shakira’s 1995 song Pies Descalzos, Sueños Blancos. Give it a listen here!

The Verses and Chorus

Perteneciste a una raza antigua

De pies descalzos y de sueños blancos

The line talks about how the person that Shakira is addressing was once part of an ancient lineage or tradition. It describes that their lifestyle was pretty simple and innocent.

As far as the vocabulary goes, Perteneciste is the second-person singular () preterite form of pertenecer, which means to belong. Pies descalzos means bare feet, since descalzo is bare, while sueños blancos is white dreams. A white dream is a dream about nothing.

Fuiste polvo, polvo eres

This line reinforces the idea that the person in question is pretty unremarkable. Fuiste and eres are the second-person singular forms of ser (to be) in the preterite and present tense, respectively. Polvo means dust. This line is from the biblical phrase “dust to dust,” which refers to the transient nature of being alive.

Piensa que el hierro siempre al calor es blando

Hierro is iron, al calor means to apply heat to something, and blando is a false-cognate meaning soft, not bland. This line translates to “think that iron is always soft when heated.” It’s a bit ambiguous, but piensa is probably the second-person singular imperative form (meaning it’s a command or request) of pensar. This would make sense as the line is probably a metaphor to suggest that even something as strong as iron can become malleable under the right conditions, meaning that Shakira believes this person could benefit from thinking that things can be different.

Tú mordiste la manzana y renunciaste al paraíso

This line, along with the next, continues the theme of biblical references. The line translates as “You bit the apple and renounced paradise.” Mordiste is the second-person singular preterite form of morder, which means to bite, and renunciaste is the second-person singular perterite form of renunciar, which means to give up or to renounce. Renunciar is followed by a.

So this is clearly a reference to the biblical story of Adam and Eve, symbolizing the loss of innocence.

Y condenaste a una serpiente siendo tú el que así lo quiso

This line is very interesting grammatically. Firstly, condenaste is the second-person singular preterite form of condenar, meaning to condemn.

The last part of this line tú el que así lo quiso contains quiso, the third-person preterite form of querer, meaning to want. Así is a word that means “like this.” So así lo quiso means “he/she/they wanted it like this.” El que means “the one who,” so we can combine those to get el que así lo quiso or “the one who wanted it like this.”

The most interesting part is siendo, which is the gerund form of ser. In Spanish, gerunds are words that end in -ando or -iendo and are equivalent to -ing words in English. You probably know that in Spanish you can use the gerund form to describe something that is happening at the present moment, like yo estoy caminando is “I am walking.” But you can also use it to describe something that was happening while something else was happening. You omit estar in this case. An example of this would be comé mi desayuno caminando, which consequently is not a thing you should do in Spain.

As a whole this line translates as “you condemned the serpent while you were the one who wanted it this way.” Condemning the serpent is a biblical reference to the Garden of Eden and this line suggests that the person blamed the serpent despite being the one who chose to act.

Por milenios y milenios permaneciste desnudo

Y te enfrentaste a dinosaurios bajo un techo y sin escudo

These lines are loaded with good vocabulary words. Permaneciste is the second-person singular preterite form of permanecer, which means to remain. Despite sounding like it would be the opposite, desnudo means naked. It’s a cognate with the very rarely used English word denude, which means to undress. Enfrentaste is the second-person singular preterite form of the word enfrentar, which means to face something usually as a challenge. Sin escudo is “without a shield.”

This continues with the theme that this person is pretty passive about how they live their life. They choose to face great challenges with little protection instead of trying to figure out a better way to solve their problems.

Y ahora estás aquí

Queriendo ser feliz

Cuando no te importó un pepino tu destino

The first part of this line uses the same grammatical construct as siendo tú así lo quiso. It means “And now you’re here wanting to be happy.”

In the last part of the line, no te importó uses importar, which means to matter, to say it didn’t matter to you. Importar uses the same grammatical construction as words like gustar and interesar, so it usually takes on a third-person conjugation. While the word pepino literally means cucumber, no importar un pepino is a colloquial idiom meaning “it doesn’t matter at all.” This song is from the 1990s, so I’m not sure how widely used this idiom still is. From an internet search, it seems that it’s still understood, but maybe not widely used.

Regardless, this line continues with the theme that this person is very passive about their life since they did not care at all about their future.

Construiste un mundo exacto de acabados tan perfectos

Construiste is the second-person singular preterite form of construir, meaning to build. Acabados comes from the word acabar, meaning to finish, and as a noun, it means ends or results.

This line, along with the next, means that this person constructed a very precise and flawless world.

Cada cosa calculada en su espacio y a su tiempo

Cada cosa calculada means “everything is calculated,” but it uses the meaning of calculated to mean exact. En su espacio is “in its place” while a su tiempo literally translates as “at its time.” This is a similar idea to the last line of everything being meticulously planned.

Yo que soy un caos completo, las entradas, las salidas

This line is perhaps an example of song lyrics stretching the rules of grammar a bit. It would be more simple to say yo soy un caos completo instead of yo que soy. Not to say that yo que soy is bad grammar, it’s just not the best way to phrase this.

Caos in this line means chaos. This is where Shakira starts contrasting herself with the person that she’s addressing.

Los nombres y las medidas no me caben en los sesos

Nombres is names and medidas is measurements. Caben is the third-person plural form of caber, meaning to fit. Sesos means brain. So the line literally translates as “the names and the measurements don’t fit in my brain.”

This is likely a reference to the fact that Shakira believes that she is chaotic and not very detailed-oriented.

The Last Lines

The last lines of the song form a sort of breakdown where Shakira just lists a bunch of qualities of this person’s proper, passive life. Grammatically, they aren’t that interesting, but there’s a lot of good vocabulary in them. This section is going to go pretty rapid-fire.

Saludar al vecino, acostarse a una hora

Saludar means to greet, vecino means neighbor, acostarse means to go to bed, a una hora means at a certain time.

Trabajar cada día para vivir en la vida

Trabajar means to work. Cada día means each day. Para vivir en la vida means “to live your life.”

Y contestar solo aquello y sentir solo esto

Contestar is to answer. Sentir means to feel. Solo aquello means “only that” while solo esto means “only this.”

Y que Dios nos ampare de malos pensamientos

This line is one of only two somewhat grammatically interesting part of this breakdown. Que Dios nos ampare uses a grammatical construct where you use que followed by a verb in the subjunctive to mean hopefully. It’s basically short for espero que. Here, the verb is ampare, which is the third-person singular present subjunctive form of the word amparar, meaning to protect. All together this means “may God protect us” or “hopefully God will protect us.” While adding “de malos pensamientos” means “from bad thoughts.” This line is a plea for divine protection from negative thoughts.

Cumplir con las tareas, asistir al colegio

Cumplir means to complete and asistir is a false-cognate that means to attend, not to assist. Con las tareas means “with the tasks,” and colegio means school.

Que diría la familia si eres un fracasado?

Diría is the third-person singular conditional form of decir, which means to say. Conditional verbs are often followed by the word si, which without an accent on the i, means if, not yes. Fracasado means failure, so si eres un fracasado means “if you were a failure.”

Ponte siempre zapatos, no hagas ruido en la mesa

Ponte is the third-person imperative form of ponerse, meaning to put on, while zapatos means shoes. Together, this means “always put on shoes,” which is a bit awkward considering the name of the song means “bare feet.”

No hagas is the negative third-person imperative form of hacer, which means to make, while ruido is noise and en la mesa is “at the table.” This part means “don’t make noise at the table.”

Usa medias veladas y corbata en las fiestas

Usa is the third-person imperative form of usar, which is to use. I am absolutely no fashion expert, but I think the American English term for medias veladas is pantyhose, although the dictionary tells me that it’s stockings. Corbata means neck-tie.

Las mujeres se casan siempre antes de 30

Se casan is the present tense third-person plural form of casarse, which means to get married. Antes de 30 means “before 30.” So this line translates as “women always marry before the age of 30.”

Si no vestirán santos y aunque así no lo quieran

Vestirán is the future third-person plural form of vestir, which is to dress, while santos means saints as a noun or holy as an adjective. An interesting thing that you might notice about this is that santos does not agree with the previous noun, mujeres, which would be santas, so that tells us that it’s the noun form, not the adjective form. It turns out vestir santos is an idiom meaning unmarried women.

Aunque means “even though,” and it’s usually followed by a subjunctive verb. Here, it’s followed by the third-person plural subjunctive form of querer. So this part can be translated as “even if they don’t want to.”

Y en la fiesta de quince es mejor no olvidar

Fiesta de quince refers to a quinceañera, which is a giant birthday party thrown for girls in Latin American countries when they turn 15. It’s usually more like a wedding than what you would typically think of when you think of a 15-year-old’s birthday party. It’s very steeped in tradition.

Mejor no olividar is “it’s better not to forget.” Together this highlights the importance of certain traditions, like a quinceañera.

Una fina champaña y bailar bien el vals

Fina champaña means “fine champagne” while bailar bien el vals means “to dance the waltz well.”