BY MIAMI HERALD STAFF
She wasn’t born in the United States. She didn’t discover a cure or bring about social change. Celia Cruz was a queen, but only of salsa music.
Still, this month she won the most votes when the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History asked the public to pick which of five iconic American figures should be memorialized.
Between May 11 through May 28, the museum opened the voting on who should win the Frame an Iconic American contest with a new biographical portrait by Robert Weingarten, a noted photographic artist.
Besides the Cuban-born Cruz, the candidates were: Audie Murphy, a World War II highly decorated soldier and movie star. Alice Paul, an American suffragist and activist. Samuel Morse, co-inventor of the Morse code and a painter. Frederick Douglass, a black American social reformer, writer, orator and statesman.
Each historical figure brought a different set of ideas to the discussion, and worthy arguments were made for each of them, the museum said.
But after more than 11,000 votes were cast — 44 percent for Cruz — the singer was declared the winner this week. Murphy and Paul came in second and third.
“The Queen of Salsa resonated with a clear majority of the voters, representing a multifaceted story of immigration, music and entertainment,” the museum said in a news release.
Curator Shannon Perich said Weingarten will be constructing Cruz’s portrait by layering digital photographic collages. Each component, whether an artifact or landscape, is photographed separately, then blended together into one image in the digital darkroom.
The public will have further opportunity to provide input on how her portrait should be presented in the exhibition, which will be available for view in the fall.
Miami Herald staffer Noel Gonzalez contributed to this report.