Celia Cruz: The Queen of Salsa and Her Iconic and Bold Style
“[Celia Cruz] no es una pasa de moda]” sings the legendary Celia Cruz, the iconic Queen of Salsa and arguably, one of the most synonymous singers with Cuban music. Born in Havana, Cuba, on October 21, 1925, Cruz was born of humble beginnings and would become a fixture in dance halls and clubs during her 20s. As an Afro-Latina woman, Cruz was raised believing in the diasporic religion of Santeria which fuses West-African folklore traditions and music orally preserved by African enslaved people in the Caribbean. From her youth onward, Cruz’s music embodies the rich and centuries old customs of Santeria and other African beliefs fused with the Spanish language. Fast forward to the 1950s, when Havana was emerging as a bustling center of Latin music and culture, Cruz started her career as a singer for the orchestra band Sonora Matancera and became its first black lead singer. Cruz would become a common fixture on television and radio across Cuba. Finally, getting her career breakthrough, Cruz starred in various Mexican films and dominated the silver screen. During her tenure with Sonora Matancera, Cruz released Canta Celia Cruz (1956) and headlined at Havana’s Tropicana Club. Despite Cruz’s shining career start, Cruz had to contend with the upheaval of the Cuban Revolution and the authoritarian rise of Fidel Castro, who she vocally criticized through her music and platform. Evidently, as Castro’s power soared and threatened Cruz’s freedom, Havana’s once thriving nightlife and club scene evaporated, forcing Cruz and the Sonora Matancera to flee Cuba for the United States, seeking refuge and greater opportunities for their music and ideas.