Celia Cruz, Queen of Salsa!
Our card pages homage to Cuban singer Celia Cruz who reigned for six decades as the Queen of Salsa. Celia produced 78 records and performed in more than 600 concerts around the world.
The orange cover shows Celia dressed in a signature wig, and wearing colorful jewelry, surrounded by conga drums, musical notes, maracas shakers, a mango, Cuban coffee, Cuban cigars, sugar cubes and dominos. Underneath is the word AZUCAR! [SUGAR!] which was Celia’s battle cry.
Open the card to an exuberance of dominos, fruit, drums, cigars, dancing girls, and rising over the scene is diva Celiz herself in a dazzling wig, jewelry and dress. The pattern on the inside pages is taken from the Walk of Fame in Little Havana next to Domino Park. Celia Cruz is honored with star on the Walk of Fame. This is a card for anyone who reveres Celia, Latin music, talent, women, pride, freedom, and joy.
More about Celia Cruz:
“It is as if the earth opened her mouth to talk and to sing,” Marvette Perez, curator of Latino history and culture for the National Museum of American History in Washington, D.C., described the power of Cruz’s music.
“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.”
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, believing she would return. Then she decided 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.
The world remembers Cruz as the Queen of Salsa, with her towering wigs, cackling refrain of ¡Azúcar! and permanent smile. 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 carnaval / it’s more beautiful to live singing). For so many, the hope and joy that Cruz embodied made her difficult ascension to fame a footnote to her success.
She found the style that would define the rest of her career in the 1970s, working 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.
At the end of every performance, Celia shouted Azucar! Azucar literally means “sugar.” It served Cruz as a battle cry and an allusion to African slaves who worked Cuba’s sugar plantations.
The singer, who 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.
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.
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.
She was incredibly gracious, a real class act. She was humble. She loved people and they loved her back.