Today we wish Happy Birthday to musical legend Madonna, who turns 53 today. (We’re pretty sure that’s in vampire years, because she hasn’t aged in decades.) Besides the immense respect we have for her as an entertainer and trendsetter, we’re wishing Madonna a Happy Birthday because her daughter, Lourdes, isn’t the only product of Madonna’s interest in Latino culture.
This is the video for Madonna’s 1987 hit “La Isla Bonita,” which is notable for being the first of Madonna’s songs to carry a Latin musical motif. Here are our thoughts.
0:01 – This place doesn’t look very bonita.
0:14 – I didn’t know Madonna collaborated with Los Lonely boys.
0:23 – “Last night I dreamt of San Pedro.” There are lots of places called San Pedro, and none of them are islands. But let’s get more into this first verse.
“Just like I’d never gone, I knew the song.” Is knowing songs typical of people that have never been to places? Or just the mythical island of San Pedro?
“It all seems like yesterday…” So you definitely went, then? Moving on.
0:54 – Samba is Brazilian music. I believe you mean “Portugues lullaby.” Also, how does a “sun…set so high”? A sunset is when it goes down. Whatever. Anything goes on your crazy mythical island.
1:11 – “I fell in love with San Pedro / Warm wind carried on the sea he called to me.” I’m beginning to think that she’s talking about Saint Peter. Also, what’s up flamenco dress? That’s mostly from Spain, but…whatever.
1:22– “Te dijo te amo” = “He told you, ‘I love you.’” It’s possible Madonna just wrote this line wrong and no one thought, “Hey, let’s ask a Latino if everything is conjugated correctly so that it makes sense.” I prefer to think Saint Peter, the first Pope, is passing along someone else’s love note.
1:50 – Yeah, get it, Guy from Los Lonely Boys.
1:56 – So is La Isla Bonita Manhattan? That would make sense if San Pedro is actually San Pedro.
2:00 – “When it’s time for siesta you can watch them go by / Beautiful faces, not a care in the world.” Oh, Latinos. You’re attractive and don’t have any pressing reality-based needs. The third world is so charming. Quick, honey, let’s fetishize it.
2:48 – Okay, so at this point a guy on the street sees Madonna and, because he seems to be a nice guy, invites Madonna down to join the street party…
3:00 – … but before she goes downstairs she has to put on her stereotype-dress. You know, so that she fits in.
3:30 – Flirt with everyone in a highly sexualized manner! You know, like Latin women do!
We love Madonna, and we realize that the 80’s was long before the “Latin Explosion” drenched us all in Ricky Martin’s juices, but we had a lot of fun rewatching this video and appreciating that we’ve come a long way since Madonna helped put Latinos on the pop-culture map with this and subsequent songs.
Shine on, you crazy diamond! Happy Birthday!