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AWM Spec Coll 100

Blades, Rubén. The Rubén Blades Archives at Harvard University: A Finding Aid

Eda Kuhn Loeb Music Library, Harvard Library, Harvard University


Harvard University, Cambridge MA 02138

© President and Fellows of Harvard College

Descriptive Summary

Location: Archive of World Music, Harvard Music Library
Call No.: AWM Spec Coll 100
Repository: Eda Kuhn Loeb Music Library, Harvard Library, Harvard University
Creator: Blades, Rubén, 1948-
Title: The Rubén Blades Archives at Harvard University: A Finding Aid
Date(s): 1948-2015
Quantity: 29.5 linear feet
Language of materials: Materials appear in Spanish and English.
Abstract: Commercial and privately produced sound and audiovisual recordings; periodicals; books; promotional materials, photographs, posters, correspondence, professional and business documents, scripts, ephemera and realia documenting the career of Rubén Blades, musician, actor and political figure from Panama.

Immediate Source of Acquisition:

The first contents of the collection were given to the Harvard Music Library, Archive of World Music in August 2008 by Alison Weinstock. In the summer of 2014, a larger group of materials was donated by Blades himself, consisting of personal papers, correspondence and additional periodical and press coverage. Additional acquisitions are anticipated in the future.

Processing Information:

Processed by: Donna Morales Guerra, Peter Laurence, Michael Heller and Gina Lee.
Finding aid encoded by: Donna Morales Guerra, Peter Laurence, Michael Heller and Gina Lee.

Conditions Governing Access:

As of 2015, one box of materials (Series XIV, Box 5) is restricted from public access due to containing personal and financial information. There are no restrictions on physical access for the remainder of the collection. A very small amount of material is restricted until after the death of the artist. Because much of this material is under copyright, the permission of the copyright holder is required before reproductions can be made. All requests for access should be forwarded to the curatorial staff of the Archive of World Music.

Preferred Citation:

[Identification of item], The Rubén Blades Archives at Harvard University, Archive of World Music, Harvard Music Library.

Biographical and Historical Note

Rubén Blades Bellido de Luna was born in Panama City, Panama on July 16, 1948. He is an internationally prominent and popular musician, actor and politician. His musical career as a singer and composer of Latin popular music styles has won him many accolades, including multiple Grammy and Latin Grammy awards. He played a key role in the salsa music scene in New York in the 1970s.
In addition to being an accomplished musician, Blades is also a lawyer. He studied law at the Universidad de Panama in the early 1970s and he later graduated in 1985 with a Master's degree in International Law from Harvard University Law School. Social, cultural and political concerns have played a major part in Blades' life and music. In recent years, Blades served a term as Minister of Tourism in Panama from 2004 to 2009.
As an actor, Blades has performed in many commercial films, including Crossover Dreams (1985) and Once Upon a Time in Mexico (2003).
As a well-known figure, many resources about Blades' life and career are widely available. This biographical sketch is necessarily brief and focused on materials currently available in the collection.


Scope and Content Note

When first acquired in 2008, the collection was comprised of materials assembled by Alison Weinstock, a resident of the Boston area who maintains a website dedicated to the work of Rubén Blades. Since then Weinstock has forwarded additional materials acquired from Blades' friends in the music industry, as well as from Paula Campbell, Blades' girlfriend in the 1970s (the song Paula C was written about her). Weinstock has also purchased many other items at auction that have become part of the collection. In the summer of 2014, a much larger cache of materials was donated by Blades himself. Included in this donation were professional and personal documents that span the entire range of Blades' career as a singer, actor, politician and activist. Further donations are expected in the future.
The predominant musical genre represented in the collection is salsa, a Latin dance music style incorporating traditional and popular song forms that originate from countries such as Puerto Rico, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Panama and the United States. Elements of jazz and rock are also frequently included in salsa music. Blades' musical career is distinguished by his many collaborations with musicians across genres, including his work in musical theater forms. He is also known for incorporating sociocultural and political commentary within salsa and Latin popular music.
The collection includes ephemera, newspaper clippings, correspondence and campaign materials relating to Blades' bid for the office of President of Panama in 1994. In that run he founded and became candidate of the political party known as the Papa Egoró Movement. ["Papa Egoró" translates as "Mother Earth" in the language of the indigenous Embera people of Panama and Colombia, and the English version of the party name is "Mother Earth Movement"; in Spanish, it is called the MPE, or "Movimiento Papa Egoró."].
The collection contains many periodical articles from the Latin American and United States press covering Blades' own music and popular Latin music in general. Also included are privately produced recordings, most of which are live concerts, television broadcasts and interviews. Commercially published sound recordings (LPs and CDs) and books in the collection have been individually cataloged and are not listed in this finding aid. These may be found by searching the Hollis catalog with "Rubén Blades Archives."
Blades' varied activities provide a wealth of material for a range of research topics. His professional documents (including contracts and business manuscripts) provide a window into the salsa and popular music industries of the 1980s-2000s. His acting documents and scripts show connections between music and film industries during that same period, while a collection of fan mail traces his reception in popular culture. His political documents and correspondence provide insight into Latin American political history, particularly in Panama during the 1990s. His extensive collection of handwritten lyrics offer a glimpse into the creative process of a giant of salsa history.

Note to Users: For the purpose of this finding aid, subject and index terms and proper names have been standardized according to the OCLC authority file, when found.

Container List

Additional Index Terms

New York (N.Y.)
New York
Música tropical
Salsa (Music)
Latin jazz
Singers - Panama
Music-United States-New York
Popular music -- Latin America
Popular music - United States
Political campaigns - Panama
Actors - United States
Motion pictures
Musical theater
Radio broadcasts
Sound recordings
Television broadcasts
Business Documents
Fan Mail
Blades, Rubén, 1948-
Campbell, Paula
Buckley, Francisco "Bush"
Editus (Musical group)
Son del Solar (Musical group)
Seis del Solar (Musical group)