His students and those who knew him called him Rubão, a Brazilian augmentative for Rubens, indicating the greatness of a man who led a simple life despite the importance of his project.
To break the link in the chain of poverty and exclusion of the young inhabitants of one of Manaus toughest neighborhoods was not an easy task and all he had at hand was his skill as a luthier, making guitars and other instruments. But for Rubão that was more than enough.
With passion and skill he founded the OELA (Amazon School for Luthiers) in 1998, a project he envisioned as a way to bring out of social exclusion and poverty hardened teenagers so that they could, like himself, tune some of the finest guitars made from valuable Amazonian wood.
Throughout a 20 year span with OELA he was proud to have formed over 2.300 students in the craftmanship of luthier. But as a true inhabitant of the Amazon, Rubão also knew the importance of preserving biodiversity and the sustainable use of resources from which he obtained the wood to make his guitars.
His conscience led him to be an ardent defender of environmental causes and the rights of the Traditional Communities of the Amazon. This led him to be President of the Amazon Work Group (GTA) and Coordinator of the Brazilian NGO and Social Environment Forum (FBOMS).
Rubens turned early on towards FSC, not only as a valued member representing the Social South chamber since 2002 but also ensuring that the wood he used to craft his masterpieces was FSC-certified and obtained responsibly, taking care of the environment and the workers involved in the process. OELA thus became the first luthier school in the world to work with FSC-certified Amazonian wood, creating timeless precious instruments.
His work in favor of the excluded took him to cross boundaries and he carried out an important project on the Bailique Archipelago in the Brazilian state of Amapa, where he worked with the local communities there to produce sustainably sourced açaí, generating an important income stream to local communities.
Musician, luthier, educator and activist, he leaves a legacy of dialogue and work for a more sustainable planet. The FSC family joins those that remember his legacy and will accompany in spirit his students when they fine tune their instruments to the teachings of Rubão.