October 21 – Happy Birthday, Celia Cruz

Posted on October 21, 2014

Today's famous birthday had a really long name: Ursula Hilaria Celia de la Caridad Cruz Alfonso de la Santisima Trinidad!

Celia Cruz was born and raised in Cuba, became a singer and made her first recordings in Venezuela, played cameo roles in movies in Mexico, and (when Fidel Castro took over Cuba) became a citizen of the United States.

She earned 23 gold albums and received a Grammy Award and the National Medal of Arts. She was called the Queen of Salsa and the Queen of Latin Music. And Billboard Magazine claimed that she was the “best known and most influential female figure in the history of Cuban music”! 

I thought it was interesting that Cruz listened to a lot of different sorts of music when she was growing up, including santeria songs (although she was raised Catholic), which were likely in Yoruba.

(Santeria is a religion that combines traditions from West African religions and from Catholicism; it is practiced largely in the Caribbean. Yoruba is a West African language often spoken in Nigeria.)

  • Check out Cruz singing “Guantanamera” here. She's definitely got some moves!
  • Check out the image gallery of Cuba, courtesy of Lonely Planet.

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