Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Spotlight On: Celia Cruz, Cuban Immigrant

Thousands carried American Flags while protesting throughout the nation yesterday in support of citizenship for an estimated 12 million immigrants. As we reflect on the historical significance of immigration in America, we must pause to remember those immigrants who have contributed to our society.

Celia Cruz came to the United States in 1960 fleeing Cuba after the Cuban Revolution. A resident of New Jersey, she was never given permission to return to her native land. Celia is understood by the music world to be the queen of salsa and Latin music's first lady. She was able to thrill her fans with emotional, exuberant and energizing performances.

Though Celia Cruz was the recipient of three Grammy awards, four Latin Grammy awards and numerous other awards and honors, she was grounded in simplicity, determination and hard work.

[Reprinted from Wikipedia – ]

Celia Cruz was born Úrsula Hilaria Celia Caridad Cruz Alfonso in the Santos Suárez neighborhood of Havana, Cuba. Her parents were Catalina Alfonso and Simón Cruz. When she was a teenager, her aunt took her and her cousin to cabarets to sing, but her father encouraged her to keep attending school, in hopes that she would become a Spanish language teacher. However, one of her teachers told her that as an entertainer she could earn in one day what most Cuban teachers earned in a month. Cruz began singing in talent contests (in her first one, at the Havana radio station Radio Garcia-Serra's popular "Hora del Te" daily broadcast, she sang the tango "Nostalgias", and won a cake as first place) often winning cakes and also opportunities to participate in more contests. Her first recordings were made in 1948 in Venezuela. Before that, Celia had recorded for radio stations.

In 1950, she made her first major breakthrough, after the lead singer of the Sonora Matancera, a renowned Cuban orquesta, left the group and Cruz was called to fill in. Hired permanently by the orchestra, she wasn't well accepted by the public at first. However, the orchestra stood by their decision, and soon Cruz became famous throughout Cuba. During the 15 years she was a member, the band travelled all over Latin America, becoming known as "Café Con Leche" (coffee with milk). Cruz became known for her trademark shout "¡Azúcar!", ("Sugar!" in Spanish). The catch phrase started as the punch line for a joke Cruz used to tell frequently at her concerts. After having told the joke so many times, Cruz eventually dropped the joke and greeted her audience at the start of her appearances with the punch line alone. In her later years, she would use the punch line a few times, to later say: "No les digo más 'Azúcar', pa' que no les dé diabetes!" ("I won't say 'Sugar' anymore, so that you don't end up with diabetes!")

The powerful, piercing and magnificent voice of Celia Cruz has touched the hearts of her fans throughout the world. Celia Cruz stands as a model of diversity and a compliment to the greatness of America which provides a home and opportunity to people from nations throughout the world.


National Museum of American History
Celia Cruz
Click here to visit site

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