Rubén Blades: The Person, Not the Character

With an artistic career spanning fifty years, 70-year-old Rubén Blades is one of the most successful and prolific songwriters in Latin America.

By  Roberto Quintero
Photos: Roberto Quintero,  Cortesy Apertura Films

Abner Benaim’s documentary of Rubén Blades portrays a man few of us know. The musician decided to share his private life in front of the camera because he believes there are aspects of his life that have been misinterpreted and he wanted to clarify certain things. “And there’s no more direct way than through visuals, because the testimony comes at you direct, without filters,” the singer-songwriter said.

Does an artist of your stature feel reserve or resistance when someone expresses an interest in telling your story?

Yes, I’m an intensely private person. But I want people to know that I’m not interested in the fame derived from artificial, constant public exposure. I do my job, but I don’t confuse it with my personal life. Certain artists are exhibitionists or are told by their managers to constantly look for publicity. I’m not one of them.

In that same line, if Abner hadn’t been the director, would you still have agreed to do the documentary about your life? 

It’s possible, but he was the one who suggested the project, not me.

How did you feel opening up in front of the camera? I don’t mean just letting him film you in your home, but the fact that you talked about aspects of your personal life that until now were kept private. 

I haven’t seen the documentary yet, to avoid having to give an opinion about it. My life is much more normal than what others imagine, in terms of the way I live and how I manage my affairs. It’s very simple, given the possible complexity of options. That’s important to explain, especially today, when material things and falsehoods seem to define success. I live with my feet on the ground, but I always keep my eyes on the horizon. Everything has to make sense. The connection between what I feel, think, say, and do. That union defines happiness for me. Which is why you can be happy without material wealth, and why some people are so poor because all they have is money.

Why did you decide not to see the documentary?

Because the first thing everyone asks is if I liked it. The film wasn’t made for me to like or dislike. It’s Abner Benaim’s interpretation of an artist’s trajectory in ninety minutes. I don’t need to see it to know what I did or what I said. It’s a photograph and I can see it whenever. I don’t feel that now is the time. I respect the work of others and Abner is my friend.


Each head is a world of its own and every director has a different movie in his or her head. Have you ever considered writing your autobiography? 

Of course, that’s going to be one of my next goals.