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Cruz, Celia

Cruz, Celia

Cruz, Celia, 1929-2003, Cuban-American singer, b. Havana. The "Queen of Salsa" began singing as a teenager, and in 1950 joined Sonora Matancera, Cuba's most popular band. She left Cuba a year after Fidel Castro came to power (1960) and was an exile in the United States for the rest of her life. Over the years Cruz sang with nearly every major Latin band, and was particularly noted for her appearances with Tito Puente's orchestra. A fiery performer who wore skintight costumes and billowing blonde wigs, she sang (in Spanish) a range of Afro-Cuban songs, from traditional Santería chants to popular mambos, cha-chas, and the salsa for which she was famous. An international star and an icon to the Cuban-American community, she toured widely, sang in clubs and concert venues, and made more than 70 recordings.

Celia Cruz performing at the Latin Grammy Awards, 2002.

(born Oct. 21, circa 1929, Havana, Cuba—died July 16, 2003, Fort Lee, N.J., U.S.) Cuban-born U.S. singer. She was studying to become a teacher in her native Havana when she won a talent show, after which she began to pursue a singing career. In the early 1950s she became lead singer with the popular orchestra La Sonora Matancera, often headlining at the famous Tropicana nightclub. After Cuba's revolution of 1959, the orchestra moved to Mexico and later to the U.S. In 1962 Cruz married its first trumpet player, Pedro Knight, who became her manager after she left the group. In the 1960s she released more than 20 albums in the U.S., including seven with Tito Puente. She became identified with salsa, a dance music that evolved from the musical experimentation of various Hispanic musicians with Caribbean sounds during the late 1960s. Cruz was the subject of a 1988 BBC documentary and appeared in films such as The Mambo Kings (1992).

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Cruz is a surname of Iberian origin. It means “cross” in Spanish and Portuguese. The word "Cruz", as well as "Vera Cruz" ("True Cross") and "Santa Cruz" ("Holy Cross") are used as surnames and topological names.

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