In celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month, we’re profiling some very notable Latinos! Today, we’re profiling the very famous musician, politician, and activist…and, arguably, Panama’s greatest import…Ruben Blades!
Rubén Blades Bellido de Luna, professionally known as Rubén Blades, is a Panamanian salsa singer, songwriter, actor, Latin jazz musician, and activist, performing musically most often in the Afro-Cuban and Latin jazz genres. As songwriter, Blades brought the lyrical sophistication of Central American nueva canción and Cuban nueva trova as well as experimental tempos and politically inspired Nuyorican salsa to his music, creating thinking persons’ (salsa) dance music. Blades has composed dozens of musical hits, the most famous of which is “Pedro Navaja,” a song about a neighborhood thug who appears to die during a robbery (his song “Sorpresas” continues the story), inspired by “Mack the Knife.” He also composed and sings what many Panamanians consider their second national anthem. The song is titled “Patria” (Fatherland). He is an icon in Panama and is much admired throughout Latin America and Spain, and managed to attract 18% of the vote in his failed attempt to win the Panamanian presidency in 1994. In September 2004, he was appointed minister of tourism by Panamanian president Martín Torrijos for a five-year term. He holds a Licenciado en Derecho law degree from the University of Panama and an LL.M in International Law from Harvard University. He is married to singer Luba Mason.
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