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Rubén Blades, Panamanian singer-songwriter
Blades is one of the best salsa performers in the world and is recognized all across the planet. Photo: Pixabay.

Rubén Blades: A deserved and timely tribute at the Latin Grammys

At the next edition of the Latin Grammy Awards, the iconic Panamanian singer-songwriter will receive a tribute for his long and rich artistic career.

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“Por la esquina del viejo barrio lo vi pasar.

Con el tumba'o que tienen los guapos al caminar.

Las manos siempre en los bolsillos de su gabán,

pa' que no sepan en cuál de ellas lleva el puñal.

Usa un sombrero de ala ancha de medio la’o,

y zapatillas por si hay problema salir vola'o.

Lentes oscuros pa' que no sepan qué está mirando.

Y un diente de oro que cuando ríe se ve brillando…”

This fragment of “Pedro Navaja,” a song written by Rubén Blades and immortalized by the great Willy Colón, is a clear reflection of some lyrics that sought to convey the experiences of Hispanics — the daily life of a community that struggles to get ahead without leaving behind its cultural background and rich traditions.

True chronicles that, in addition to being extraordinarily musical, are clear reflections of an era of Latinos feeling amid difficulties to survive, but always exalting Hispanic idiosyncrasy, mischief, creativity and pride.

If it were about choosing a representative to highlight Hispanic Heritage Month, Blades would surely be one of the first on the list. He is an immense ambassador of the talent and sentiment of Latinos both in the music industry and film and television.

You can also read: The Latin Grammys announce this year's nominees

A long-awaited tribute

Thanks to a rich artistic career that has led him to win nine Grammys and eight Latin Grammys, the renowned “singer-songwriter, producer, musician, actor and activist,” as he is described by the Latin Recording Academy, was chosen as the Person of the Year 2021 and will be honored at the next installment of the event.

According to the President and CEO of the Latin Recording Academy Gabriel Abaroa Jr., “Rubén Blades is a truly iconic artist who has inspired generations with the powerful and intelligent lyrics of his songs, and whose genius has promoted the justice at all levels of society.”

Blades will receive a well-deserved statuette that goes beyond his great musical talent, as he is also recognized for his uninterrupted commitment in the fight for social justice, which saw him support worldwide programs that seek to raise awareness about issues as important as political oppression, hunger and poverty.

"As activism and movements for social justice have dominated our collective conversation over the past year, at this time, there is no one more deserving of the Latin Academy Person of the Year honor," Abaroa noted.

Born in Panama City, Rubén Blades Bellido de Luna emerged as one of the salsa figures in New York during the 70s and has managed to stay current thanks to his continuous reinvention that leads him to merge in his projects his Afro-Cuban influence with different rhythms from around the world.

But Blades is not just a successful artist. Thanks to his law degree from the School of Law and Political Sciences at the University of Panama (1974), as well as his Master of Laws from the Harvard Graduate Law School (1985), the singer held the position of Minister of Tourism of Panama between 2004 and 2009.

His presence before the cameras, although without the same magnitude as his musical talent, has also been celebrated by numerous productions. Nominated for an Emmy and a list of more than 50 films and series in English and Spanish, Blades has proven to be much more than a singer. His last appearance was in the series, Fear The Walking Dead, a "spin-off" of the popular zombie saga. 

Through his Twitter account, the Panamanian thanked the Academy for the opportunity and the distinction they give to his country and its artists.

In addition to unforgettable classic hits such as "El Cantante," "Pedro Navaja" and "Plástico," Blades has recently sought to transmit positive and significant changes in the Hispanic community with songs such as "Prohibido Olvidar," "Buscando America," and "Desapariciones” — songs that show listeners Blades' longevity. 

“Success is never the product of the effort of a single individual, it is the result of many contributions and the will and talent of other people. Today I thank all those who made possible the success of my career as a musician and composer,” he said.

The list of winners

The 'Latin Recording Academy Person of the Year' recognition is awarded to musicians of Ibero-American heritage, not only for their artistic achievements in the Latin music industry, but also for their humanitarian efforts. Other honorees have been: Juanes (2019), Maná (2018), Alejandro Sanz (2017), Marc Anthony (2016), Roberto Carlos (2015), Joan Manuel Serrat (2014), Miguel Bosé (2013), Caetano Veloso (2012), Shakira (2011), Plácido Domingo (2010), Juan Gabriel (2009), Gloria Estefan (2008), Juan Luis Guerra (2007), Ricky Martin (2006), José José (2005), Carlos Santana (2004 ), Gilberto Gil (2003), Vicente Fernández (2002), Julio Iglesias (2001) and Emilio Estefan (2000).

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