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Celia Cruz, La Guarachera de America, a Special Character to Remember

People who changed the world - Column with Isabel Jubes

Celia Cruz winning a Grammy

Changing the world, the story one great person at its time.

Celia Cruz

Celia Cruz (1925-2003)

Every week for few minutes I’ll bring you a short story about an important character in the Latin and Hispanic culture, from history or the present, that had made an important contribution to our culture.

Celia Eterna

Celia Cruz was born in Havana, Cuba on October 21, 1925. Her birth name was Úrsula Hilaria Celia de la Caridad Cruz Alfonso, one of 14 children raised in a family that was poor, but in a time and place that was rich with musical activity.

She first gained recognition in the 1950s, as a singer with the orchestra Sonora Matancera. She moved to the United States after the ascent of Fidel Castro. During her professional career, she recorded 23 gold records, including the ones with other Salsa legends like Tito Puente, The Fania All-Stars, Ruben Blades, Willy Colon, among others. Cruz died in New Jersey in 2003, at the age of 77.

You might not be sure how she changed the world, but while most singers came and went, Cruz’s career lasted a span of nearly six decades. She was a strong voice against Fidel Castro’s regime, against human right violations of radical governments in Latino America, and also a strong supporter of other Latinos in the arts. As a refugee, she was recognized as a strong voice for freedom in Cuba in the USA, but she was always very dear to the hearts of all Latinos, Hispanics, and lovers of Latin music.

She was one of the most popular salsa performers of all time.

For many of us the eternal cry of “Azucar!” (Sugar!) , which was a signature,  will stay in our minds as a symbol of energy, happiness, charisma, even fight and great achievements.

Her profoundly soulful voice and colorful presence revolutionized salsa and transformed her into a musical legend. Most importantly, the Cuban singer taught us that ‘life is a carnival’ (in one of her many hits “La Vida Es Un Carnaval”).

She won many Grammies, gold albums, and even a Presidential Honor Award, from President Bill Clinton.

Her famously warm and gracious personality also made her one of the most beloved, as it was evidenced by the outpouring of grief that greeted her death from cancer. When she died on July 16, 2003, over 220.000 people paid their respects in during her funeral in Miami, Florida, where she wished to be buried.

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