Celia Cruz was born October 21, 1925 in Havana Cuba to the parents of Catalina Alfonso and Simón Cruz. Her dad hoped that she would become a Spanish teacher, but when she was growing up, she started singing when she was only 14 years old.
Celia studied voice and piano at the National Music Conservatory and left Cuba in 1960. When she came to the States she began recording with Tito Puente “Mambo King” in New York City.
She is known as the Queen of Salsa or “La Reina de la Salsa” because she was the most influential woman in the history of Afro-Cuban music.
Even though she became an international star, her music was banned in Cuba by Castro because of her defection and she was never allowed to return to her country.
In 1962, Celia married Pedro Knight who played the trumpet for Sonora Matancer, who incidentally became her manager.
One of her trademark phrases was “Azucar!” which mean sugar in Spanish. She eventually dropped it saying “No les digo más ‘Azúcar’, pa’ que no les dé diabetes!” This translates to “I won’t say ‘Sugar’ anymore, so that you don’t end up with diabetes!”). Haha. Ok. That was funny.
Some awards she earned were an honorary degree from Yale University and the National Medal of Arts by President Clinton in 1994. Not to mention, a lifetime achievement award from the Smithsonian Institution.
She was a Grammy-award winning performer and had recorded over 70 albums in her lifetime.
Celia Cruz died Wednesday in her Fort Lee home in New Jersey after a battle of brain cancer July 16, 2003. At the age of 78, she was buried in a mausoleum at Woodlawn Cemetary.