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'Queen of Salsa' has her own US quarter: Celia Cruz to be first Afro Caribbean woman on the coin

Celia Cruz, the Queen of Salsa

By Wyatte Grantham-Philips | USA Today – February 8, 2023

The Queen of Salsa will soon be honored with a quarter of her own. Cuban American icon Celia Cruz is appearing on new coins for 2024, the U.S. Mint announced last week.

The singer will be the first Afro Caribbean woman to appear on the U.S. quarter, several news outlets reported.

Cruz was one of the most celebrated artists of the 20th century. Her work “captured the unique vibrancy and magic of Latin music, and won the hearts of millions across the globe,” the Celia Cruz Legacy Project Archive and Research Center writes.

Over the course of her decades-long career, Cruz earned 23 Gold Records, three Grammy Awards, four Latin Grammy Awards and the President’s National Medal of Arts, according to the Smithsonian. Among her long list of other accolades, Cruz was also honored at the 2016 Grammys with a posthumous Lifetime Achievement Award.

American Women Quarters Program: Here’s who else is honored in 2024

The U.S. Mint is honoring Cruz through the American Women Quarters Program, which features coins with designs created to honor the legacy and diverse accomplishments of American women throughout history. The program, which began in 2022 and will continue through 2025, issues five quarters each year.

In addition to Cruz, the other 2024 honorees are:

  • Patsy Takemoto Mink, the first woman of color to serve in Congress.
  • Dr. Mary Edwards Walker, a Civil War-era surgeon and abolitionist.
  • Pauli Murray, a lawyer, activist and Episcopal priest.
  • Zitkala-Ša, also known as Gertrude Simmons Bonnin, a writer and activist for Native American rights.

“All of the women being honored have lived remarkable and multi-faceted lives, and have made a significant impact on our Nation in their own unique way,” U.S. Mint Director Ventris C. Gibson said in a statement. “By honoring these pioneering women, the Mint continues to connect America through coins which are like small works of art in your pocket.”

The designs for the 2024 American Women Quarters are set to be released in mid-2023, the U.S. Mint said.

As the Smithsonian and Cruz’s biography detail, Cruz was born in Havana in 1925. She began singing in the 1940s and became the lead female singer for popular Cuban orchestra La Sonora Matancera in 1950. Following the Cuban Revolution, Cruz immigrated to the U.S. – later collaborating with Tito Puente, Johnny Pacheco, the Fania All Stars and more.

“She flourished despite being in a genre with primarily male artists,” the Smithsonian notes, pointing to how Cruz helped shaped the salsa music we know today.

In her decades-long career, Cruz helped bring Afro-Cuban music to the world stage and became a beloved icon with a lasting legacy. She died in 2003 at age 77.

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