“Pies Descalzos, Sueños Blancos” by Shakira, English translation

“Bare Feet, White Dreams” Lyrics
Album: Pies Descalzos, Sueños Blancos (1996)
Style: Rock ballad, mix of rebellious and biblical overtones, old Shakira before her move to pop music
Country: Colombia


Chorus A:
Perteneciste a una raza antigua
De pies descalzos y de sueños blancos.

You belonged to an ancient race
Of bare feet and of blank dreams. [*lit. white dreams]

Fuiste polvo, polvo eres. *
Piensa que el hierro siempre
Al calor es blando.

You were dust, you are dust. *
Think, that iron is always
Soft in heat.

Tú mordiste la manzana
A renunciaste al paraíso
Y condenaste a una serpiente
Siendo tú el que así lo quiso.

You bit the apple
And renounced paradise,
And condemned a snake,
Being you who wanted it that way.

Por milenios y milenios,
Permaneciste desnudo
Y te enfrentaste a dinosaurios
Bajo un techo y sin escudo.

For millennia and millennia,
You ran naked
And faced dinosaurs
Under a roof and without protection (shield).

Chorus B:
Y ahora estás aquí
Queriendo ser feliz,
Cuando no te importó
Un pepino tu destino.

And now you are here
Wanting to be happy
When your destiny did not
Matter a cucumber to you. [*alt. Matter at all to you.]

[Chorus A: “Perteneciste a una raza antigua…”]

Construiste un mundo exacto
De acabados tan perfectos,
Cada cosa calculada
En su espacio y a su tiempo.

You built an exact world
With finishes so very perfect,
Everything calculated
In its own space and time.

Yo que soy un caos completo,
Las entradas, las salidas,
Los nombres y las medidas
No me caben en los sesos.

Me, who is a complete chaos,
The entrances, the exits,
The names and the quantities
Don’t fit in my head [*lit. brain].

[Chorus B: “Y ahora estás aquí…”]

[Chorus A: “Perteneciste a una raza antigua…”]

Saludar al vecino,
Acostarse a una hora,
Trabajar cada día
Para vivir en la vida.

Greeting the neighbor,
Going to bed at (the same) time,
Working every day
So you can live in life.

Contestar sólo aquello,
Y sentir sólo esto,
Y que Dios nos ampare
De los malos pensamientos.

Answer only that,
And feel only this,
And may God keep us
From bad thoughts.

Cumplir las tareas,
Asistir al colegio,
¿Qué diría la familia
Si eres un fracasado?

Completing your homework,
Going to college,
What would the family say
If you are a failure?

Ponte siempre zapatos,
No hagas ruido en la mesa,
Usa medias veladas y
Corbatas en las fiestas.

Always wear shoes,
Don’t make noise at the table,
Use veiled pantyhose
And ties at parties.

Las mujeres se casan
Siempre antes de treinta
Si no, vestirán santos
Y aunque así no lo quieran.

Women get married
Always before they’re thirty
If not, they’ll dress as saints
Even if they don’t want it that way.

Y en la fiesta de quince
Es mejor no olvidar
Una fina champaña
Y bailar bien el vals,
Y bailar bien el vals.

And at 15th birthday parties
It is better not to forget
A fine champaign
And dancing the waltz well,
And dancing the waltz well.

Translation Notes:

This is an old Shakira song that I translated in 2004 and posted on my now defunct Geocities page. Slight edits and more notes in 2021 for the repost.

Fuiste polvo, polvo eres.

You were dust, you are dust.

This line is an edit of the Catholic saying during Ash Wednesday, “eres polvo y al volvo poverás” (you are dust and to dust you shall return). This saying is meant to remind us of our mortality. Shakira moved the tenses further back into the past. You WERE dusk, and you ARE dust currently.

Y te enfrentaste a dinosaurios / Bajo un techo y sin escudo.

And you faced dinosaurs / Under a roof and without protection (shield).

This line makes humans sound somewhat protected (they live under roofs) but also vulnerable (they don’t have metal battle shields).

…No me caben en los sesos.

…Don’t fit in my head (brain).

sesos [m. noun] = brains
Sesos” is the word that you use when you want to order cow brain tacos. This type of meat is rarely found now because of the danger of mad cow disease. It means “brains” in other contexts, too, but it is less formal sounding that el cerebro (the brain).

No te importó un pepino
It didn’t matter a cucumber to you [*lit.]

This is an idiomatic expression kind of like English “did not give a hoot.”

“Pies Descalzos, Suenos Blancos” – without special characters so WordPress search can find this song translation better

2 thoughts on ““Pies Descalzos, Sueños Blancos” by Shakira, English translation

  1. Wow! Great to see the return of one of my favourite sites. So much thought and nuance in every translation, and wonderful choice of music. Hope you’re keeping v v well. You probably have a long list of requests, but just in case you don’t, how about….
    Amigos Simplementes by Mon Laferte, or La Rebelion by Joe Arroyo?
    Very best wishes,
    Dave R

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for the welcome back and those nice compliments! Yeah, the pandemic has been stressful but one upside is that now I can work from home a few days a week. No commute on those days means more free time for hobbies and translating. I like those two songs. They’re on my list now. :)

      Liked by 1 person

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