For many Puerto Ricans and other Latinos, Roberto Clemente was more than just a baseball star. Above all, he was a symbol of hope and humanitarianism, succeeding despite the overt racial discrimination he encountered as a Black Puerto Rican. Off the field, Clemente was renowned and beloved for his involvement in charity work in Puerto Rico and other Latin American countries. His final humanitarian act came about in 1972 on New Year’s Eve when the plane chartered to deliver aid to earthquake victims in Nicaragua crashed into the ocean off the coast of Isla Verde, Puerto Rico. His sudden and tragic death brought about many tributes, but one that has remained unnoticed is the ritual musical drama Olú Clemente: The Philosopher of Baseball. Renowned Nuyorican artists, Miguel Algarín and Tato Laviera, pay homage to Clemente’s life and perseverance by dedicating the ritual musical drama, Olú Clemente: The Philosopher of Baseball to him. This significant yet presently under-discussed performance, which premiered for one night at the Delacorte Theatre in Central Park on August 30, 1973, is among the first – if not the very first – U.S. Latino musical production produced by Joseph Papp, the founder of The Public Theater. This production engaged with Clemente’s blackness and integrated many Afro-Caribbean elements, illustrating how Nuyoricans used theater, music, religion, and other performing practices to mark their Afro-Latino identity.

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Copyright © 2016 Palgrave Macmillan. This book chapter first appeared in Afro-Latin@s in movement: critical approaches to blackness and transnationalism in the Americas, by Petra R Rivera-Rideau, Jennifer A Jones, and Tianna S Paschel, 171-194. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2016.

The definitive version is at Palgrave.

Full citation:

Herrera, Patricia. "Listening to Afro-Latinidad: The Sonic Archive of Olú Clemente." In Afro-Latin@s in Movement : Critical Approaches to Blackness and Transnationalism in the Americas, by Petra R Rivera-Rideau, Jennifer A Jones, and Tianna S Paschel. 171-94. New York: Palgrave MacMillan, 2016.