How a Bitter Cafecito Sparked Celia Cruz’s Iconic ¡Azúcar! Saying
Celia Cruz is one of Cuba’s most iconic artists. Two decades after her passing, La Reina de la Salsa still stands out. Her unique voice, infectious songs, and flamboyant fashion are unforgettable.
While we may play “La Vida Es Un Carnaval” any time we’re feeling low, there’s one phrase Cruz will always be known for — the infamous “¡Azúcar!”
While many may think the “La Negra Tiene Tumbao” vocalist picked her “battle cry” randomly, the history behind it is as special as Cruz herself.
Digital creator Anabell Vigo, shared a clip resurfacing the phrase’s origin. The creator wants people to see how “inspiration can be found where you least expect it.” Now we’re just as addicted to it as we are to our cafecito.
Celia Cruz’s iconic “¡Azúcar!” was born in 1964 at a Cuban restaurant in Miami, Florida
The three-time GRAMMY winner shared the anecdote of her glorious “Azuucar” with Colombian journalist José Gabriel Ortiz. During a visit to his show, “Yo, José Gabriel,” the late-night show host asked her to share the story behind her battle cry.
Laughing alongside her husband, Pedro Knight, who Cruz joked had “become diabetic” from how often she repeated “azucar” began the hilarious story. Turns out they were having lunch at a restaurant in Miami and after they finished, the waiter asked Cruz if she’d like a Cuban coffee, and if she wanted it with sugar.
“I told him ‘Mira chico, you’re Cuban, you know well how strong our coffee is,” she started. “How are you going to ask me if I want it with or without sugar? With AZUCAR of course!”’
That night she told the story at one of her shows at Montmartre Cabaret in Miami, where everyone laughed at the joke. Soon enough, at every performance, the audience begged her to retell the tale. That’s when Cruz chose to take a different route.
Fans obsessed over the story, asking her to tell it at every show
Back in the 1960s things didn’t go viral, but word still got around. Cruz’s fans, of course, wanted the cafecito on what happened at the restaurant.
“Until one day I got tired of it and said today I won’t tell the story anymore,” she told Gabriel. “The fitting rooms were in the back, so when they announced me, I went down the stairs screaming ‘!Azúcar!‘ and people started clapping.”
After Knight reminded her of the year it all took place, in 1964, Cruz continued.
“The truth is, I haven’t been able to remove that word from my repertoire since…it’s my battle cry.”
“¡Azúcar!” is known as Cruz’s “battle cry”
Cruz reigned as the Queen of Salsa and Guaracha for nearly six decades. Aside from her loyal husband, one more thing accompanied her music— lots of ¡azúcar!
Her “battle cry” is woven into the rumbera’s style. She included it in her songs, at concerts, as a way of opening or closing a speech— we’re looking at you first Latin GRAMMY’s celebration. The phrase will be minted onto the US quarter. Cruz will be the first Afro-Latina to appear in one.
Uttering the word was like invoking Cruz herself.
As Vigo put it, “Everywhere you go, ‘azúcar’ is related to Celia and related to Cuba.”
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