Notes from José Massó: Sentimiento de Pueblo, Tite Curet Alonso & Rubén Blades

Friday, December 2, 1994

A short time after landing at el aeropuerto Luis Muñoz Marín, Rubén asked that we drive him to Raúl Juliá’s gravesite on the way to the hotel.  He was in San Juan to play in the first Carlos Baerga Celebrity Softball Game with other celebrities and major league baseball players at the Estadio Juan Ramón Loubriel in Bayamón the following day. I knew that Rubén and Raúl were close friends and there was no hesitancy in honoring his wish as we drove to the Buxeda Cemetery in Cupey.  Raúl had been buried there a few weeks earlier on October 27th in a ceremony attended by thousands of spectators, Rubén unfortunately, had not been able to attend.

On May 8th of that year, Rubén had placed third in the general election for the presidency of Panamá.  His Papa Egoró (Mother Earth) party received nearly 18% of the vote.  In June he would be back on stage performing with Son Del Solar.

The tour started in Aruba for the 7th Aruba Jazz & Latin Music Festival.  Cheo Feliciano was the headliner for the opening night on Friday the 17th.  Rubén and Son del Solar would close the first weekend of music on Sunday, sharing the stage with Cuban trumpet virtuoso Arturo Sandoval.  The weekend gave Rubén a chance to decompress after a grueling nine-month campaign in his homeland of Panamá.  His wife at the time, Lisa Lebenzon, an actress, had asked Divina to take care of him, making sure that he would rest as much as possible.  The festival organizers graciously extended our stay at the beautiful Costa Linda Hotel for some much needed rest and recreation.

The first week in July we would travel to San Juan for concerts at the Centro de Bellas Artes.  Rubén has always considered Puerto Rico as his second home and his fans responded with four sold out performances.

“The weekend concerts that lasted until Monday were a sort of homecoming for the former Panamanian presidential candidate.  The capacity crowd at the center’s Festival Hall received Puerto Rico’s adopted son with a standing ovation".

"The rhythms of “Juan Pachanga” filled the theater as the curtains opened.  The musicians of Son del Solar were the only ones on the stage.  The crowd waited impatiently for Blades to make his entrance.  Suddenly, he appeared from a side door of the theater and walked through the crowd to the stage.  The music was drowned out by the roar of the crowd”.
-  “Blades concert combines humor, comments, music and surprise”, A Review by Todd Michael Jamison,The San Juan Star, Tuesday, July 5, 1994 -

Tite Curet Alonso was in the audience for the last performance on the 4th of July.  So were Marc Anthony, Gilberto Santa Rosa, Jerry Rivas, Roberto Roena and Bobby Allende.

When Rubén introduced “Plantación Adentro” he spoke about the success of his 1977 recording with Willie Colón "Metiendo Mano" and their frustration at getting a true accounting of sales from Fania records –

“Cuando salimos finalmente de Nueva York, que llegamos a Venezuela fue que nos enteramos, vía Puerto Rico, del éxito del álbum.  Por que cuando nosotros llegamos a Fania y preguntamos “¿oye como le va Metiendo Mano?... ¿Ah Tite, cuanto millones de dólares nos tocaron a nosotros?... (cantando) Esperanza inútil…… Esta canción del gran Tite Curet, ¡Plantación Adentro! Que fue la que abrió puerta, ¿ah Tite? Me recuerdo cuando me la cantaste en Nueva York en la cocina de  la casa de Paula C”.

- Rubén Blades on stage, July 4th, 1994, Centro de Bellas Artes -

PLANTACIÓN ADENTRO (Autor: Catalino Tite Curet Alonso)
Es el año 1745, en la América Latina el indio trabaja en las plantaciones bajo el palo implacable del mayoral.

Ja, ja, ja, ja

Sombras son la gente, a la la la la la la la
Sombras son la gente, a la la la la la la la
Plantación adentro camará
es donde se sabe la verdad
es donde se aprende la verdad
Dentro del follaje y de la espesura
donde todo viaje lleva la amargura
es donde se sabe camará
ja ja ja ja ja
es donde se aprende la verdad.
Camilo Manrique falleció
por golpes que daba el mayoral
y fue sepultado sin llorar
una cruz de palo y nada más.

Coro: Camilo Manrique falleció, plantación adentro camará

Plantación adentro camará, sombras son la gente y nada más
Se murió el indio Camilo, por palos que daba el mayoral
Y el médico de turno dijo así: “Muerte por causa natural”
Claro, si después de una tunda ‘e palos que te mueras es normal
Acostarse tarde y de pie temprano rumbo pa’l cañaveral
Tierra, selva, sol y viento, indio y palo ’e mayoral

Coro: Camilo Manrique falleció, plantación adentro camará

Plantación adentro camará, sombras son la gente y nada más
Selva verde, selva traga, selva nunca dice na’
Recoge el café y coge pa’lla sino te pega el mayoral
¡Eh!, Camilo Manrique falleció y lo enterraron sin llorar
y en su triste monumento una cruz de palo y nada más
Oye, lo que digo es la verdad, sombra son la gente y nada más.

“Because Mr. Blades’s music can also be overtly political, many salsa fans assume that he is the author of “Plantación Adentro” (“On the Plantation”), a song about the exploitation of workers that established him as a star. But, he said, he chose it after hearing it on a cassette loaded with songs Mr. Curet had written expressly for him”.[1]

Tite wrote that he first met Rubén on the corner of Ashford and Magdalena Avenues in Condado.  He couldn’t remember the date, but knew that it was at night.  They spoke about the young singer/composer's plans and their mutual love of Brazilian music.  In 1980, Rubén would record Tite’s samba “La Palabra Adios” with the Fania All-Stars in their album “Commitment”.

There is a video on you-tube with Rubén showing Cheo Feliciano a picture of the first time he met him and Tite in 1972 at the old Casablanca nightclub in Condado.  Cheo was singing with El Sexteto Imperial and in the photo are Cheo, the late Rafael Cortijo, Tite and Rubén.

In 1994, Rubén recorded an album with Willie Colón, “Tras la Tormenta”, that included “Desahucio (Eviction)” a song he co-wrote with Tite.  The bomba rhythm accompanied the story about Adolfina Villanueva, a woman who had been evicted from her home in Medlanía Alta in the coastal town of Loiza in Puerto Rico.  She was killed by police gunfire on the morning of February 6, 1980 when they came to evict her.

“One characteristic that made Mr. Curet’s compositions stand apart from the run-of-the-mill salsa tune was their willingness to address social and political problems. As Rubén Blades, the Panamanian singer, songwriter, actor and politician, put it in a telephone interview, “Tite wrote songs that were directed not just at the feet but also at the mind.”[2]

DESAHUCIO (Tite Curet/Rubén Blades)

La soga sigue partiendo por lo más fino.
De más está predicar que así es el destino.
Parece que no tener plata es un delito.
Que vale más la injusticia que el “¡Ay, bendito!”

Los pobres querían un sitio en donde vivir,
y comenzar, desde ahí, su recuperación.
Sabían que su permanencia allí era ilegal,
Pero, sin dinero, no hubo otra solución.

Su desahucio todo el mundo lo comentó.
Justicia que en asesina se convirtió,
tronchando la vida humilde de una mujer:
la Ley aplicada mal deja de ser Ley.

No fueron en nombre del entendimiento.
No hubo explicaciones, ni hubo sentimiento.
Luciendo uniformes de orden y proceso
llegó un pelotón de fusilamiento.
La sangre inocente nos cubrió de duelo.
Los gritos de muerte despertaron a un pueblo.
Cuerpo acribillado, que lección encierras:
para el pobre, el cielo: ¡pa’l rico, la atierra!
Cuerpo acribillado, que lección encierras:
para el pobre, el cielo: ¡pa’l rico, la atierra!

¡Adolfina vive!

Coro: Adolfina se dejo matar,
desde el cielo lo perdonara.

Ella no te pide pena, ¡sólo tu respeto y ya!
Todos tenemos derecho a vivir con dignidad.
No te pide privilegios, ni te pide caridad.
Esto debe quedar claro: sin justicia no habrá paz.

Si ésta tierra es parra todos, no la asfixies con alambre.
Para tú vivir mejor no mates a otros de hambre.
Sin demagogia ni ideología dale entrada al pobre en la economía.
La Patria no es una finca que se puede hipotecar.
Si es verdad que Cristo viene, ¡mejor huye Camará!

“Tras la Tormenta”, released in 1995, was dedicated to Héctor Lavoe and Raúl Juliá, two stars of América.

That year Rubén would return to San Juan for the second Carlos Baerga Celebrity Softball Game.  The day after, he would spend most of the day relaxing in his hotel room in Condado.  Don Tite, to Rubén's delight, came by to visit.  As we sat talking, Rubén was interrupted on a number of occasions by telephone calls.  He apologized to don Tite because the conversation was about an ongoing project of theirs for a children’s opera based on a song that Tite had written.
Rubén went into detail for my edification about having written a song some nine or eleven years earlier about a fisherman.  He told me the story of Antadilla and how he had shared the story with don Tite, asking him to write a few songs for the project and that don Tite in turn spoke to him about a song he had written titled “La campana en el fondo del mar (The bell at the bottom of the Sea)”.
He went on to tell me that upon hearing the title he thought it would make for a good children’s story and thus they embarked on writing and planning on recording “La campana en el fondo del mar”.

“In spite of the fact Tite was often depicting a harsh barrio reality, he wrote with an elegance of words and imagery, with lyrics that could be very poetic and cosmopolitan,” said Mr. Blades, whose next recording will be dedicated to Mr. Curet.[3] “And he opened up the scope of the music, too, pushing it beyond the tropical salsa enclaves by writing stuff that was more pan-American.”[4]

At the time of his death, on August 5, 2003, don Tite was still was working on the opera for children with Rubén.

“I wish now, looking back, that I had asked him more questions, because he had a lot to teach,” said Mr. Blades, who suspended a tour so he could attend Mr. Curet’s funeral in San Juan. “That man loved music and culture and words and ideas, and talking about all of those things. He was just exceptional in every way.”[5]

Prohibieron ir a la escuela
e ir a la universidad.
Prohibieron las garantías
y el fin constitucional.
Prohibieron todas las ciencias,
excepto la militar.
Prohibiendo el derecho a queja,
prohibieron el preguntar.
Hoy te sugiero mi hermano,
Pa’ que no vuelva a pasar,
¡Prohibido olvidar!

Coro:            ¡Prohibido olvidar!

Prohibido esperar respuestas,
prohibida la voluntad.
Prohibidas las discusiones.
Prohibida la realidad.
Prohibida la libre prensa
y prohibido el opinar.
Prohibieron la inteligencia
con un decreto especial.
Si tú no usas la cabeza,
otro por ti la va a usar.
¡Prohibido olvidar!

Coro:            ¡Prohibido olvidar!

Prohibido el derecho a huelga
y el aumento salarial.
Prohibieron ir a la calle
y el Estado criticar.
Prohibieron reírse del chiste
de su triste gobernar.
Prohibieron el desarrollo
del futuro nacional.
Yo creo que la única forma
de darle a esto un final es:
¡Prohibido olvidar!

Coro:            ¡Prohibido olvidar!

Prohibido los comentarios sin
“visto bueno” oficial,
prohibieron el rebelarse
contra la mediocridad.
Prohibieron las elecciones
y la esperanza popular.
Y prohibieron la conciencia,
al prohibirnos el pensar.
Si tú crees en tu bandera
Y crees en la libertad:
¡Prohibido olvidar!

Coro:            ¡Prohibido olvidar!
¡Dilo Oscar….Hernández!

Pobre del país donde lo malo controla
donde el civil se enamora de la corrupción.
Pobre del país alienado por la droga
porque una mente que afloja pierde la razón.
Pobre del país, que con la violencia crea
que puede matar la idea de su liberación.
Pobre del país que ve la justicia hecha añicos
por la voluntad del rico o por orden militar.
Cada nación depende
del corazón de su gente
y a un país que no se vende
nadie lo podrá comprar.

Coro: ¡No te olvides! ¡No te olvides!

IT IS PROHIBITED TO FORGET (Prohibido Olvidar/Rubén Blades)
They prohibited going to school
And going to the university.
They prohibited constitutional
guaranties and goals.
They prohibited all sciences
except the military.
They prohibited the right to complain,
they prohibited asking questions.
I suggest to you, my brother, so that it doesn’t happen again.
It is prohibited to forget.

Chorus:            It is prohibited to forget!

They prohibited waiting for answers.
They prohibited having a choice.
Discussions were prohibited.
Reality was prohibited.
The free press was prohibited,
giving opinions was prohibited.
They prohibited intelligence
with a special decree.
 If you don’t use your head
Somebody else will use it for you.
It is prohibited to forget.

Chorus:            It is prohibited to forget!

The right to strike was prohibited,
so were salary increases.
They prohibited taking to the streets
and criticizing the government.
They prohibited laughing from jokes
about their sad government.
They prohibited development
of the national future.
I believe the only way to end this is:
To prohibit to forget.

Chorus:            It is prohibited to forget!

All comments without official
approval were prohibited.
They prohibited rebelling against
They prohibited elections, and the
people’s hope.
They prohibited the conscience,
they prohibited thinking.
If you believe in your flag,
and believe in freedom.

Chorus:            It is prohibited to forget!

Poor is the country controlled by evil,
where the civil population falls in love with corruption.
Poor is the country, which has been alienated by drugs,
because a debilitated mind loses reason.
Poor is the country which believes that violence
can kill the idea of freedom.
Poor is the country which sees justice
broken to pieces, by the wishes of the wealthy or by military orders.
Each nation depends on the heart of its people
and a country which doesn’t sell out
can’t be bought by anybody.

Chorus:            Don’t forget that!


De noche
la clase alta conspira,
“Jaibol” en mano,
La clase media descansa,
la televisión mirando.
La clase baja sigue abajo
el día del cambio esperando.

El sueño llega y nos cubre a todos con su manto,
y unos se tapan con la mentira
y otros se arropan con la verdad.
y todo el mundo le apuesta a la vida
mientras duerme la ciudad.

Unos sueñan con ganancias
otros lloran lo perdido.
Algunos no dan importancia
a lo vivido.
Incluso, la maldad descansa
con un suspiro.
Todos se acuestan pensando:
“Mañana, viene lo mío!”

Y unos se arropan con la mentira
y otros se cubren con la verdad
y todo el mundo le apuesta a la vida
mientras duerme la ciudad.

Y unos se acuestan con la mentira
y otros se arropan con la verdad
y todo el mundo le apuesta a la vida
mientras duerme la ciudad.

WHILE THE CITY SLEEPS (Mientras Duerme La Ciudad/Rubén Blades)

At night
The upper class conspires
“high ball” in hand
planning schemes.
The middle class rests,
watching the television.
The lower class goes on, way below
waiting for the day in which changes will come.
Night arrives, covering us all with its shawl.
Some cover up with lies
others wrap themselves in truths
and the entire world bets on life
while the city sleeps.

Some dream of profits, while
Others cry over what is lost.
Some don’t give importance to life.
Even evil rests
with a sigh.

All go to bed thinking,
“Tomorrow, I’ll get my share”
some wrap themselves with lies,
others cover themselves with truth,
the entire world bets on life
while the city sleeps.

TENGAN FE (Rubén Blades)
Tengan fe, que esto no se acaba aquí.
Pongan fe, la razón para vivir.
El que pierde la confianza
ve su vida presa por la indiferencia.
En cambio el que no se rinde
por lo menos ve salvada su conciencia.
Por eso digo
tengan fe, que esto no se acaba aquí.
Pongan fe, que hay razón para vivir.
El que no busca no encuentra y
el que no escucha no aprende.
El que no trata fracasa con el alma y con la mente
cuando hay fe, hay con que, hacer lo que hay que hacer
con la fe la duda se termina.
Tengan fe, que esto no se acaba aquí.

Coro:            Tengan fe y el problema se resuelve.

-Siempre hay una solución, cuando la fe no se pierde.
-Recuerden tras la tormenta hay un sol que siempre vuelve.
-Cuando, cuando, cuando no usas la cabeza y otro abusa de tu mente.

Coro: ¡Tengan fe que esto no se acaba aquí! (3 veces)

-Es un corazón muy grande, el de América Latina.
-Si es fuerte la voluntad, cámara, se encontrara la salida.
Con la fe que sea valiente el problema se termina.

HAVE FAITH (Tengan Fe/Rubén Blades)

Have faith, this will not end here.
Have faith, the reason to live.
Those who lose confidence
will heave their lives tied to indifference.
But those who don’t give up
at least, see their conscience saved.
So I say,
have faith this doesn’t end here.
Have faith, the reason to live.

The one who doesn’t seek doesn’t find.
The one who doesn’t hear, doesn’t learn.
The one who doesn’t try fails
in his soul and mind.

When one has faith, one has the means,
to do what needs to be done.
With faith, there are no doubts.
Have faith, this doesn’t end here.

Chorus:            Have faith, and the problem will be solved.
There is always a solution when faith is not lost.
Remember, after the storm there is always a sunny day.
When, when, when one doesn’t use their head others abuse your mind.

Chorus:            Have faith, this doesn’t end here. (3 times)

The Latin American heart is a large one.
If your will is strong, friend you’ll find the way.
With faith, which builds the courageous soul, all problems end.

[1] Larry Rohter “A Master of Tropical Music, Recalled With Reverence”
[2] Larry Rohter “A Master of Tropical Music, Recalled With Reverence”
[3] “Cantares del Subdesarrollo”, released in 2009, was dedicated to Puerto Rico, Ismael Rivera, Tite Curet Alonso and Ray Barretto.
[4] Larry Rohter “A Master of Tropical Music, Recalled With Reverence”
[5] Larry Rohter “A Master of Tropical Music, Recalled With Reverence”

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