CANDELA: “WE BROUGHT ELECTRONIC MUSIC TO PUNTA CANA”
In BOP faces we talk to local legends: the people of Punta Cana that make this place so special. In this edition: Candela Pereyra. She and her brother brought Electronic music to Punta Cana by opening Soles Chill out Bar. This was not an easy journey. Throughout their success they were shut down 3 times. BOP was curious about her story.
“Around 18 police officers came. They started destroying everything with sticks and baseball bats. Literally everything. There were customers in our bar. It was really scary.” Candela Pereyra (36) shows photos on her phone of the ruins that were left of her beach bar after the police shut them down the first time. The pictures show a destroyed kitchen and broken chairs shattered across the beach.
Candela sits in an open cabana that is covered with orange, blue, and yellow drapes at her bar as she swipes to the right on her phone.As Candela tries to continue her story, a visitor walks over to hug her as he leaves. “Ciao Candela!”
Candela is well-liked throughout Punta Cana. When you mention her name, people automatically say Soles.
Starting a business at 18
Before the bar was shut down for the first time, Candela and her brother had 200 to 300 visitors in their place on the beach every day. “We started over there.” Candela points to her left side towards a space with a building on the beach in Bavaro.
“When I came here from Argentina with my dad, brother, mother, and sister, at the age of 16 there was nothing. Only one bakery, one small supermarket, and one club. My father opened an Argentinian restaurant and I started working there. It was hard to make friends of my own age. Most of the people that I knew where 30 and 40 years old with a totally different lifestyle. So, when I finally met a girl of my own age, I clinched on to her! We started hanging out, but since there were not a lot of options and the only music they played around was Salsa and Merengue, my brother and I came up with an idea. We decided to open our own bar with deep electronic house and chill out lounge music. I was 18 years old and he was 20 at that time. A friend of my brother said to us ‘there is so much sun here.’ Which is sol in Spanish and he came up with the name Soles. We gave everyone that visited us a sun. It could be a drawing of a sun or some other form of art.
It was a crazy time. All we did was party with our friends in our own place. Of course we made mistakes. We were so young!”
As Candela and her brother started to get lots of attention because of their new hotspot on the beach, celebrities started to come and visit them too. “As we were the only place that played electronic music, people started noticing us. We were getting 200 to 300 visitors a day. And then that day came when the police entered our place and tore everything down in 2003. Although we had a rental contract, there were multiple owners of the building. One of them probably issued for this to happen.
It was devastating. After that my mother returned to Argentina, because she could not take living her anymore. I am not a quitter, that is why my brother and I decided to start again.
We were shut down two more times. Once I came to work and noticed that my whole kitchen was closed with cement. I could not even enter the bathrooms. Can you imagine? But we decided to start again, because I cannot give up a place that we sacrificed so much for. Of course, it is sad, but you have to pick yourself up and move on. The last time it happened was on 6 December 2016. We closed for over a year to prepare ourselves for re-opening here on the 27th of December 2017. This is my home! I love offering a good service to people and having this connection with them. Make them feel that they are welcome here! I am not going to give that up.” Candela smiles.
“My soul is here”
Candela has been living in Punta Cana for more years than in Argentina. “When I work her I am on a vacation. It is my mentality. My soul is a tourist. My soul is here. I move to a new house almost every year. That is just me. When I am in Argentina it is colder. It does not feel like home anymore. Here I walk barefoot every day. I do not wear shoes! I feel free.” Candela points at her feet. “Only when I go to Santo Domingo I wear them. It feels so strange on my feet!” A laughing Candela says.
“One thing people always find weird here is my name. Candela means candle so when I walk past somewhere they say fire, fire.”
“Punta Cana has changed so much over the years. When we started here there were only palm trees on the beach. No resorts or other places.” Candela shows a video on her phone of the beach 18 years ago. “Now it is full of everything. Restaurants and hotels. The tourists also changed. It is more mass. In the past the tourists used to be more hippy like. I think it is sad that they are not preserving the nature as much as they can. A lot of nature has been taken away. Also here, I would love to have so much more space so we can have even more people. But in a more nature like environment. So who knows what will happen in the future.” Candela says suspicious.
“My favorite place is the beach and of course our place Soles Chill out bar! I would love to have it grow even more.”
Visit Candela at Soles Chill out Bar, when you are in Punta Cana!