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Celia Cruz


CElia Cruz

…is a Mujeres Latinas idol. Dubbed the "Queen of Salsa," Celia touched the lives of her many fans with her stunning and colorful performances. Born in Havana, Cuba on October 21, 1924, she passed on July 16, 2003 with her music pouring out of Latino radio stations, cars and homes as she acquired generations of loyal fans and inspired countless voices.

As a young girl, Celia filled her home and her community with song. It was clear from early on that she was going to be a star. But singing wasn't her first dream. Celia wanted to be a teacher, a dream that her parents supported. Celia changed her mind however, when her talent and her blossoming voice eventually led her and her family to realize she should be a stage performer.

Celia's parents were cautious, however, insisting that there be older women in the family at performances to chaperone her. Celia's first efforts as a singer came on Cuban radio in the 1940s. She clearly had a natural talent for singing and decided to further study music at Havana's Conservatory of Music from 1947 to 1950.

Celia's big break came in 1950 when she was asked to be the lead singer for La Sonora Matancera, Cuba's top dance band. She began to record with the band and remained in Cuba until 1961, when it was evident that Fidel Castro was about to seize control of the island from the dictator Fulgencio Batista. Celia was forced to flee Castro's Communist revolution. She reached Mexico but decided to settle in the United States.

According to Celia, "Castro never forgave me." He refused to allow her to enter the country ever again. Once settled in the United States, Celia found it difficult to find a niche. Latin music had been popular at the time, but the music she performed was something new to American audiences. Celia persevered however and soon her mix of rhythms and sounds became known as Salsa. In 1966, Celia united with the Tito Puente Orchestra to perform.

This union proved to be a huge success and Celia performed with Tito Puente for many years. Through her career, Celia has recorded until her death with her final album in 2003. Over the years she has toured internationally to critical acclaim. Celia has appeared at the Grammies and has sold-out performances at Madison Square Garden in New York. Celia, a musical play on her life, written by Carmen Rivera and Candido Tirado (2007) premiered off Broadway to sold out shows and later taken on the road.

Celia was one of the greatest singers and stage performers ever. She is a legend and an inspiration to all Mujeres Latinas.

The Biographical Dictionary of Hispanic Americans. Nicholas E. Meyer.

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