CeliaCruz / News

As always, Celia Cruz, the queen of salsa, is right on the money | Opinion

Celia Cruz

By THE MIAMI HERALD EDITORIAL BOARD | Miami Herald – February 21, 2023

Celia Cruz, best known as the Cuban queen of salsa, was that particular kind of celebrity who transcends ethnicity, language and generational divides. She was a Cuban version of a Betty White, a Willie Nelson, a Dolly Parton, a Beyoncé.

Even if you couldn’t understand the lyrics of her songs, her aura made you like her. She belted out dance songs with magical effortlessness, singing with an open heart and soul that made it impossible to stay in your seat.

From the stage, she loved everyone, and her trademark motto was irresistible: ¡Azúcar! — sugar! She was spreading sweetness and joy.

Now, as we approach the 20th anniversary of her death, Cruz, a four-time Grammy winner, will be honored in a very American way.

The singer, who fled Fidel Castro’s Cuba in the early 1960s, will have her famous face embossed on a 2024 U.S. quarter, the first Afro-Latina to be featured on a coin, the U.S. Mint announced this month. Its news release said Cruz was selected as part of an initiative called the American Women Quarters Program. Other 2024 honorees include: Patsy Takemoto Mink, the first woman of color to serve in Congress; Dr. Mary Edwards Walker, a Civil War-era surgeon, women’s rights advocate and abolitionist; Pauli Murray, a writer, lawyer and Episcopal priest who co-founded the National Organization for Women; and Zitkala-Ša — also known as Gertrude Simmons Bonnin — a writer, composer and political activist for Native American rights.

Cruz was one of the most celebrated singers of the 20th century. She was a walking work of art, covered in sequins, atop perilously high heels, adorned with outlandish wigs, long fake lashes and nails, and red, red lips. A big smile was always on her face.

The Celia Cruz Legacy Project Archive and Research Center described her impact this way: “Celia captured the unique vibrancy and magic of Latin music and won the hearts of millions across the globe.”

In fact, the Legacy Project itself is a testament to her impact, collecting materials, documents, photographs, videos, stage dresses and other pieces from Cruz’s personal collection, preserving this trove and making it accessible to scholars.

In addition, it develops memorabilia exhibits and innovative music programs for children, committed to keeping salsa alive and evolving.

Cruz on the U.S. quarter will affirm the cultural significance of her work.

Those of us who loved Cruz will be able to carry her in our wallets and purses in addition to in our hearts.

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