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COLLECTION Identifier: AWM Spec Coll 100

Rubén Blades recordings and papers


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.


  • Creation: 1948-2015

Language of Materials

Materials appear in Spanish and English.

Conditions Governing Access

Collection is open for research. As of 2015, one box of materials (Box 51) is restricted from public access due to containing personal and financial information. The collection's paper-based materials are accessed through the Houghton Library Reading Room. This material is shelved offsite at the Harvard Depository. Retrieval requires advance notice. Researchers should check with Houghton Public Services staff to determine retrieval policies and times.

Requests to access audio and audiovisual material should be directed to the staff of Loeb Music Library's Archive of World Music.


29.5 linear feet

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.

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.


  1. Series I. Unpublished audio and audiovisual recordings, 1968-2010 (6 boxes)
  2. ___Subseries 1. Audio recordings on CD and cassette
  3. ___Subseries 2. Promotional audio recordings
  4. ___Subseries 3. Audiovisual recordings on DVD
  5. ___Subseries 4. Audiovisual recordings on videocassette
  6. Series II. Periodicals, 1964-2011 (5 boxes)
  7. Series III. Publicity, promotional materials and programs, 1985-2014 (2 boxes)
  8. ___Subseries 1. Press kits
  9. ___Subseries 2. Programs
  10. ___Subseries 3. Miscellaneous
  11. Series IV. Political materials, 1975-2010 (3 boxes)
  12. ___Subseries 1. Papa Egoró Movement
  13. ___Subseries 2. Correspondence and other political documents
  14. ___Subseries 3. Blades political clippings
  15. ___Subseries 4. General political clippings
  16. Series V. Newspaper and magazine clippings, 1977-2013 (4 boxes)
  17. Series VI. Correspondence, 1976 - 2012 (3 boxes)
  18. ___Subseries 1. General correspondence
  19. ___Subseries 2. Fan mail
  20. ___Subseries 3. Greeting cards
  21. ___Subseries 4. Miscellaneous
  22. ___Subseries 5. Correspondence donated by Paula Campbell from 1978
  23. Series VII. Photographs, 1971-1994 (2 boxes)
  24. Series VIII. Posters, 1988-2010 (1 box)
  25. Series IX. Realia (2 boxes)
  26. Series X. General documents and manuscripts, 1973-2002 (4 boxes)
  27. ___Subseries 1. Professional documents
  28. ___Subseries 2. Hobbies, calendars and personal purchases
  29. ___Subseries 3. Chinese newspapers
  30. ___Subseries 4. Writings about Rubén Blades
  31. Series XI. Music and lyrics (2 boxes)
  32. Series XII. Acting documents, 1987-2013 (2 boxes)
  33. ___Subseries 1. General acting files
  34. ___Subseries 2. Materials relating to The Capeman
  35. Series XIII. Scripts and production notes, 1983-2012 (4 boxes)
  36. Series XIV. Business and financial documents, 1970s-2000s (5 boxes)
  37. ___Subseries 1. Business correspondence
  38. ___Subseries 2. Contracts and negotiations
  39. ___Subseries 3. Legal documents
  40. ___Subseries 4. Royalty statements
  41. ___Subseries 5. Financial documents

Physical Location

Archive of World Music, Harvard Music Library

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.

Blades, Rubén. Rubén Blades recordings and papers: Guide
Archive of World Music, Eda Kuhn Loeb Music Library, Harvard College Library
Language of description

Repository Details

Part of the Eda Kuhn Loeb Music Library Repository

The Eda Kuhn Loeb Music Library is the primary repository of musical materials at Harvard. The Music Library’s collecting mission is to serve music teaching and research programs in the Music Department and throughout the Faculty of Arts and Sciences. In addition, it supports the musical needs of the broader Harvard community as well as an international scholarly constituency. We collect books, musical scores, serial titles, sound recordings and video formats, microforms, and rare and archival materials that support research in a wide variety of musical disciplines including historical musicology, music theory, ethnomusicology, composition, and historically informed performance practice, as well as interdisciplinary areas related to music. The special collections include archival collections from the 19th, 20th and 21st century.

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