Celia Cruz, Queen of Salsa! ¡ Azucar !
Cuban singer Celia Cruz reigned for six decades as the Queen of Salsa. She produced 78 records and performed in more than 600 concerts around the world. At the end of every performance, Celia shouted Azucar!*
The orange cover shows Celia Cruz dressed in a signature wig and wearing colorful jewelry. She is surrounded by conga drums, musical notes, maracas shakers, a mango, Cuban coffee, Cuban cigars, sugar cubes and dominos. Underneath is the word Azucar!
Open the card to a 3D exuberance of dominos, fruit, drums, cigars, dancing girls, and rising over the scene is diva Celia herself in a dazzling wig, jewelry and dress. The pattern on the inside pages duplicates the Walk of Fame in Little Havana Miami next to Domino Park.
Celia Cruz is honored with a star on the Walk of Fame.
Celia Cruz had an incredible voice and a stage presence that captivated her audiences. But the icon was also known for her over-the-top, equally bold and colorful style. This included voluminous wigs in all colors of the rainbow, bold jewelry, boho caftans, sequined mermaid dresses, ruffles galore, and those legendary, gravity-defying shoes.
This is a card for anyone who reveres Celia Cruz, Latin music, Afro-Cuban culture, fashion, dance, salsa, talent, women, pride, freedom, and joy.
*Azucar is Spanish for sugar. It was her allusion to African slaves who worked Cuba’s sugar plantations.
More about Celia Cruz:
Celia Cruz popularized salsa music in the United States. By celebrating her Cuban culture, she also helped Afro-Latino Americans embrace their own heritage. She became one of few women to succeed in the male-dominated world of salsa music. Her charismatic personality, powerful voice and vibrant style made her one of the most influential figures in Latin music.
And her image matched. Cruz enjoyed “bigger than life clothes.” She favored a style worn by rumba dancers called bata Cubana, with billowing sleeves and long, ruffled trains. The fashion is part Spanish colonial, part Afro-Cuban and 100 percent vivid.
Cruz left Cuba in 1960 to settle in the United States. Two years later, her mother died, and the Castro government would not allow her to return for the funeral.
In the 70’s she sang with an upstart independent label called Fania. The Fania All Stars included such talents as Ruben Blades, Ray Barretto, Johnny Pacheco and Hector Lavoe. It was the time when the term “salsa” was coined and Celia Cruz earned the respect of its players and fans.
She is known as La Reina de la Salsa, La Guarachera de Cuba, The Queen of Latin Music, and La Guarachera del Mundo. All appropriate titles, all perfectly describing Celia Cruz.
The job of feets is walking, but their hobby is dancing.
Dance is the timeless interpretation of life.
Don’t breathe to survive; dance and feel alive.
Dancing in heels is my superpower.
Born to dance.
Dance mode ON.
Lose your mind, find your soul.
Dance is the rhythm of life.
Mi musica siempre sera Salsa.
Forgiving is not forgetting. Forgiving is remembering without pain. When people hear me sing, I want them to be happy.
“When people hear me sing,” said Celia Cruz, “I want them to be happy, happy, happy. I don’t want them thinking about when there’s not any money, or when there’s fighting at home. My message is always felicidad — happiness.”
The world remembers Cruz as the Queen of Salsa, with her towering wigs, and permanent smile. Azucar !
Her best-loved hits concern happiness in the face of life’s hardships: “Ay / no hay que llorar / que la vida es un carnaval / es más bello vivir cantando” (You don’t have to cry / life is a carnival / it’s more beautiful to live singing).
I am from yesterday I am carnival
I put heart and earth
my blood is black sugar
it’s love and it’s music
Symbol and Legacy:
For the Cuban-American community, Cruz became a symbol of pride and freedom, and she brought Afro-Cuban music to the world stage as a black woman in the face of widespread racism and sexism. Thirty years after she left Cuba — and 24 years after the release of her American solo debut — Cruz returned in 1990 to perform at the American naval base at Guantanamo Bay and kissed the soil beneath her. Today, she is buried in New York with a fistful of Cuban earth.
She came to the United States in 1960, recorded more than 70 albums and received a dozen Grammy nominations. Born October 21, 1925, Celia Cruz died of a brain tumor on July 16, 2003 in her Fort Lee, N.J., home at age 77.
Like the legacy she left behind, Celia Cruz found hope in memory. Her blackness, her womanhood and the tenderness with which she did her work throughout her sixty-year career are a testament to her ability in a world fractured by exile and discord to break barriers and replace them with joy. Azucar!
Celia is honored with the National Medal of Art, 3 doctorates (an honorary doctorate of music from Yale (in 1989), a doctorate from Florida International University in 1992, and a doctorate in music from the University of Miami in 1999), the Walk of Fame in Little Havana, and a US postage stamp.
She was incredibly gracious, a real class act. She was humble. She loved people and they loved her back.