Entertainment

21 Things You Might Not Know About Celia Cruz, The Queen Of Salsa

Celia Cruz is the legend of all legends; the Queen of Salsa, La Guarachera de Cuba, an icon of Afro-Latinidad. We all know her for classic hits like “La Vida es Un Carnaval” and “Guantanamera” but she’s the icon we inherited from the last generation.

Here the woman, the myth, the legend behind “Azúcar!” and 21 facts you probably didn’t know about her.

Her full name is Ursula Hilaria Celia de la Caridad Cruz Alfonso.

CREDIT: @celiacruzonline / Instagram

She was born October 21, 1925, making her the most famous Libra Latina to ever grace the planet Earth. She was born in the poor, working-class neighborhood of Santos Suárez in Havana, Cuba.

Cruz was brought up a devout Catholic, but the first angelic notes she sang were to Santería.

CREDIT: @celiacruzonline / Instagram

Her neighbor practiced Santería and while her father highly opposed any other religion, she had a good time with her neighbor.

Cruz later studied Yoruba to sing alongside Merceditas Valdés.

CREDIT: @celiacruzonline / Instagram

Cruz stayed in this religious genre for a little while, singing backup for female led productions. Eventually, she made her big break, though.

She started singing as a teenager because her tía took her to cabarets.

CREDIT: @celiacruzonline / Instagram

A little context: back in the 1940’s, singing wasn’t considered a respectable profession. It was a different time where people weren’t as free to express themselves as they are now.

Her father’s influence won for a minute when she attended the Normal School for Teachers in Havana.

CREDIT: @celiacruzonline / Instagram

One of her teachers at the school gave her the down low and told her to escape, quickly. They told her that she could earn a teacher’s monthly salary in a single day as an entertainer.

To appease her father, she went to school…at Havana’s National Conservatory of Music.

CREDIT: @celiacruzonline / Instagram

Once she started getting gigs, however, another maestro told her to drop out of school and just pursue her career full-time. This was her moment.

Cruz started winning multiple “La hora del té” singing contests on the local radio.

CREDIT: @celiacruzonline / Instagram

Venezuela was actually the first country to truly embrace her stardom. Her first recordings were made there in 1948. From there, she found her in.

Cuba’s Sonora Matancera lost their Boricua lead singer to her home island and Cruz tried out for the empty slot.

CREDIT: @celiacruzonline / Instagram

She was the best thing to happen to Sonora. Soon, her name was far bigger than the band’s and she stuck with the band for 15 years.

Cruz didn’t even get to say goodbye to Cuba before she was exiled.

CREDIT: @celiacruzonline / Instagram

It’s impossible to find a picture of Celia not smiling, but we know this was a very difficult time for her. The band was on tour in Mexico during the 1959 Castro take over of Cuba and the band decided not to return home. Instead, they crossed into the U.S.

Castro was so enraged by Cruz’ defection that he barred her from ever returning to Cuba.

CREDIT: @celiacruzonline / Instagram

In 1961, she became a US citizen. She tried to go back to Cuba when her mother died in 1962 but the government wouldn’t let her in.

Never returning to her home was heartbreaking.

CREDIT: @celiacruzonline / Instagram

In 1990, she visited Guantanamo Bay, U.S. territory on the island of Cuba. She heartbreakingly was on her homeland, but not in her Cuba. She reached between the fence to collect the Cuban soil that she would later be entombed with.

She ended up marrying Sonora’s trumpet player, Pedro Knight, in 1962.

CREDIT: @celiacruzonline / Instagram

At this point, the Cuban exile community in the U.S. was idolizing this marriage, but they hadn’t reached mainstream American music ears just yet.

They stayed together for 40 years, until they died.

CREDIT: @celiacruzonline / Instagram

Knight’s sideburns lived on until his death in 2007, when he was buried with Celia Cruz in the Bronx. But before all this morbid end to their lives, Celia conquered the world.

In 1994, President Clinton awarded Cruz the National Medal of Arts.

CREDIT: @celiacruzonline / Instagram

Was someone looking for proof that #ImmigrantLivesMatter? Well, you don’t need it, it’s just true. But here’s proof that immigrants enrich the United States in every single respect.

The Queen of Salsa was known for her statement wigs.

CREDIT: @celiacruzonline / Instagram

In a completely male-dominated industry, Celia took ownership to the very top of salsa music with her own flourish. Her unconfined joy and creative expression was the icing on top of that deep, other-worldly voice of hers. We’re all sold.

Here’s the story behind “Azucar!”

CREDIT: @celiacruzonline / Instagram

In a 2000 Billboard interview, she explains how she came up with her famous catchphrase:

“I was having dinner at a restaurant in Miami, and when the waiter offered me coffee, he asked me if I took it with or without sugar. I said, ‘Chico, you’re Cuban. How can you even ask that? With sugar!’ And that evening during my show … I told the audience the story and they laughed. And one day, instead of telling the story, I simply walked down the stairs and shouted Azúcar!”

A few years after marrying Knight, she dropped out of Sonora and joined Tito Puente to record eight albums.

CREDIT: @celiacruzonline / Instagram

The albums didn’t go anywhere but the pair eventually started headlining concerts at Carnegie Hall. Her voice never aged and many claim that while she is the Queen of Salsa, her voice was truly operatic.

There isn’t a Grammy Award that she was nominated for that she didn’t win.

CREDIT: @celiacruzonline / Instagram

Truly. She generated over fifty albums in her lifetime and four won Best Salsa/Merengue Albums.

Two years ago, she was awarded post-mortem the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award.

CREDIT: @celiacruzonline / Instagram

In her last years of life, she was awarded three Grammy’s. Never give up, kids. Give it your all till the end.

On July 16, 2003, Cruz died from brain cancer at the age of 77.

CREDIT: @celiacruzonline / Instagram

While Cruz never had children, she inspired a whole generation of artists who attribute her music, her grace and her strength in Afro-Latinx representation as their inspiration.

Apparently, Cruz’ dedication and inspiration is infectious, because she hugged Amara La Negra and now we’re stanning.

CREDIT: @AmaraLaNegraALN / Instagram

We’re hard pressed to find any quotes from Celia about what it was like embracing her Latinx blackness, but contemporary artists like Amara La Negra cite Celia Cruz as their ultimate validation and inspiration. The spirit of Cruz lives on in us all, but we like to think that she’d be saying a lot of the things Amara has been saying for years.


READ: Let’s Revisit Celia Cruz And Patti LaBelle Rocking The 1998 ALMA Awards

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Jeimy Osorio, Reflects On The “Amazing Journey” It’s Been To Play Celia Cruz In The Hit Series

Entertainment

Jeimy Osorio, Reflects On The “Amazing Journey” It’s Been To Play Celia Cruz In The Hit Series

Jeimy Osorio is the Puerto Rican and proud Afro-Latina actress you should have on your radar. With lead roles in “Betty en New York” and “Celia,” Osorio has taken the entertainment industry by storm and reminds the world the importance of highlighting Afro-Latinx stories, and casting Afro-Latinx talent for Afro-Latinx roles. mitú caught up with the talented actress about what these experiences were like for her, the significance of portraying her characters on screen, and how they have impacted her acting and singing career.

So good to meet you, Jeimy! I hope quarantine has been treating you well, thank you for taking the time to chat with us. You play a young Celia Cruz in the series, “Celia.” Can you tell us about that journey? Was this your first major role?

Yes! Actually it was my first major role back in 2014 when we started filming. It was, if I’m not mistaken, one of the first Afro-Latina TV shows led by an Afro-Latina. It has been an honor because ever since I have been representing the Afro-Latina community even more so than before. It has been an honor for me to play this role as well because I have, in a way, kept with me the values and the tools that this character taught me about how to take care of my career and how to be as kind and understanding as Celia was when she was growing up, all of which led to her success, I would say.

You touched on this a little, but what does it mean to you to get to play such an iconic woman? I mean, we’re talking about Celia Cruz! 

It’s an amazing journey, I mean in the beginning, I knew that they were giant shoes to fill. I was thinking, “I don’t know how I am going to do this, I don’t even know if people are going to like this, I’m just going to enjoy each moment the best I can and I’m going to try to portray that joy in the camera.” And I think that worked. For me, it has still been a gift, a dream, and also like I said before, continuing the legacy of good music, message of self-love, of self-respect, of respect for others, loving your country, speaking up, using your voice, helping others through music, creating joyful music! I think that, for me, that’s the biggest one. As artists, performers, we are on the radio, we are inevitable to your ears. So whatever comes into your ears that comes from me, I want it to be joyful. I want it to be something that helps you grow, or at least touch your emotions, or helps you connect or helps you feel better. So for me to grab on to these values and tools that I would say that she left me, it’s an honor to just keep bringing these things to life with this new generation.

You’re also in “Betty en New York.” For anyone who isn’t familiar with the show, how would you describe it?

“Betty en New York” is definitely a show that you need to watch. At some point in our lives, we have all been Betty. It’s a beautiful story and it is so refreshing because it touches on the subjects that we are experiencing right now about racism, about bullying, and what social media is really doing with the minds of our kids and our teenagers. Also, the theme of self love is the most important. We’re touching all these subjects that are so deep, but the fact that we’re connecting it with comedy and that we’re going to bring this to you in your face as you laugh, it’s a magical combination. You can’t miss it and you can’t not love it. 

“Betty en New York” is a comedic series. Were there any funny moments from the set?

There were so many funny moments! Sometimes we had to stop filming because we couldn’t go on with the scene because it was so funny. We would have laugh attacks for 5-10 minutes and then you start laughing and then when you stop, I start laughing, and there was a moment where everyone started laughing and then no one could stop laughing. It was amazing. We would also sing, too, and perform in between scenes. We would make fun of each other, basically, but mainly with love. A lot of love.

Going back to “Celia,” can you tell me about one of your favorite moments on that show?

I think one of my favorite moments was when I was recording the talent show when she sang for the first time in front of her mother. When we were recording it, that sequence was so surreal for me because ten years before I was winning a singing contest at a university in front of my parents for the first time. It was just so parallel. I remember my friends were screaming my name, I was in second year and I didn’t tell my parents what the show was about, I just told them I was going to sing. They always knew I wanted to become a singer but they didn’t know my passion because I was shy! I would sing so low in my room, I didn’t want anyone to hear me. I kind of felt ashamed of it. I was still trying to figure out what was wrong with my voice, like, I felt that there was something wrong with my voice until that day. For me to play Celia singing, having her mother there and to look at the wood floor was exactly my same memory, and I was thinking  “wait a minute, I’ve lived this before.” I started crying in front of everyone. So the tears that you see in the beginning when they’re throwing her flowers in the opening of the show, that’s really me trying to stop the tears. And I remember I couldn’t stop crying for the next 15 minutes. They cut the scene, I was like “oh my god, this was me 10 years ago,” I was in shock. I couldn’t stop the tears.

A very full-circle moment, I’m sure. 

Yes, it was!

Congratulations again, on both of these shows! Are these shows available to stream anywhere? How can we watch “Celia” and “Betty en New York?”

Definitely! You can all go to Peacock.com, you’ll find more information there. You can [also] download it to your smart TV. It’s going to be under free programming and premium programming, for those that want a little extra. You can watch live programming from Telemundo and from different networks, content in both Spanish and English. I’m really happy we’re going to be representing the Latino community through Telemundo programming on the Peacock TV app.

Well, there you have it! Brb, going to binge-watch all seasons of “Betty en New York” and “Celia” on Peacock.

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Celia Cruz Was The Afro-Latina Queen Who Taught Young Black America The Importance Of Education And Hope

Entertainment

Celia Cruz Was The Afro-Latina Queen Who Taught Young Black America The Importance Of Education And Hope

PBS

If you’re a Latina from or living in the United States there’s no doubt that you have some memories of your days watching the longtime children’s program “Sesame Street.” For many Americans, the show has proven to be a  common ground. The show which was initially conceived as an educational intervention program directed at low-income, minority children gave kids of different colors and economic backgrounds a chance to learn numbers, the alphabet and speak rudimentary Spanish and English. Part of the show’s effort in this execution included featuring strong female characters that didn’t fall into regular female stereotypes.

Easily one of the greatest women to visit the show as Celia Cruz and video clips of her time on the show are resurfacing and stirring up comments commemorating her work as well as the show.

Fans of the Cuban-American Gurachara singer are commemorating her visit to Sesame Street on Twitter.

So far, the video which was posted on Twitter on July 22nd has received 11,618 retweets and 24,499 likes. Hundreds of Celia’s fans have commented

Many of the comments highlight how Celia’s music resonated with them as kids.

Literally every little Cuban girl knows La Madre de Azucar!

Many of the Cubana commentators have noted how the song takes them back to their time in Cuba

So many Cuban-Americans have commented on how they remember their abuelas playing Celia as kids.

And many remember seeing the episode when it first aired.

Ah to have seen this treasure back in the day would have been a true blessing.

Almost everyone is pointing out how cute the kids’ reactions are.

Literally, that girl is getting it and that boy is having an out of body experience.

And others are sharing her other visits to Sesame.

Cruz made multiple visits to the show, and by the comments, it’s clear that each one had a profound impact on little viewers.

Check out the full clip from Celia’s visit below!

And don’t forget to check out this moment Celia Cruz appeared to teach a song about numbers.

Or, this clip of her singing ‘Songo’s Song’

No doubt we could use more lessons and light from people like Celia Crus. Especially during these hard times.

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