News / Culture

Rubén Blades is Back in Town

It seems that Rubén Blades wasn’t joking when he quipped “Cumplida la tarea, se retira el ministro” in Calle 13‘sLa Perla“. And he sure took his retirada seriously. After a five-year stint as Panama’s minister of tourism, he’s back in the same town that saw him evolve from a mail-room clerk at Fania Records to one of the label’s biggest stars: New York.

And how did we learn about this tiny geolocation tidbit? Via the most didactic medium in the country, of course, PBS! (I’m not being sarcastic this time) The “Pedro Navaja” singer was profiled this week for the network’s NewsHour.

Thanks to this video, I am going to be able to up the ante at the next Latino trivia game, now that I know that:

– Rubén has a graduate degree from Harvard (¿Qué quéeeee?)

– He was kind of medio hottie back in the day

– Young Rubén could wear the hell out of a Cosby sweater

– He’s into subversion for all the right reasons. “Through music you can make these issues…not go away, and present them in a non-political, partisan way; just [a] humanistic way that will make people pay attention to the issue and perhaps understand it better.”

– The meaning of burrocracy. Not a typo, I swear.

– Listen to your abuelitas. But only if your abuelitas know what they’re talking about – Cubism, for example–, not if they tell you that you shouldn’t get your chancletas wet because that attracts bad luck at gambling.

Learning is fun. Now, where can I get that Cosby sweater?

Sweater

Watch an extended interview and a performance with his wife, Jazz singer Luba Mason, here.