Celia Cruz, the Cuban-American salsa singer is being honored by Google with a doodle on the 88th anniversary of her birth.
Úrsula Hilaria Celia de la Caridad Cruz Alfonso de la Santísima Trinidad (yes, her full name) was born in Havana, Cuba on October 21, 1925 and became one of the most popular salsa performers of modern times.
During her career, she earned 23 gold albums and was nicknamed “the Queen of Salsa” for her indisputable influence in Latin music.
The second of four children from a father who worked in the railroad and a homemaker mother, who took care of 14 other family members, Cruz was supposed to be a teacher as her father wished.
The 1930s in Cuba, were a time of great diversity in music and she grew up listening to different artists who were influential in those days such as Fernando Collazo, Abelardo Barroso, Pablo Quevedo, and Arsenio Rodríguez.
Celia Cruz also studied the words to religious songs and made several recordings in the genre.
During her teenage years her aunt took her and a cousin to cabarets to sing, but her father encouraged her to keep studying even though one of her teachers told her she could make more being an entertainer than in a month of being a teacher.
— Google Doodles (@GoogleDoodles) October 21, 2013
In 1950 Cruz had her first breakthrough after the lead singer of the Sonora Mantacera, a popular Cuban orchestra, left and she was called to fill in.
Even though she wasn’t warmly welcomed by audiences, the orchestra stood by her and eventually she became a favorite when doing concerts.
Celia Cruz is the inventor of the famous Spanish shout “¡Azúcar!” (sugar). The term came about after telling a joke for many years that eventually became so well known, it only needed one word to relate.
The band enjoyed incredible popularity in all of Latin America, which they toured for 15 years. They became known as “Café Con Leche” (coffee with milk).
With the band, Cruz was able to break into the movie industry and starred in two Mexican films in 1950 and 1952.
When Fidel Castro’s rule turned into a dictatorship, Cruz and her husband, Pedro Knight, decided not to return to Cuba and she became an American citizen.
In 1966 she started a partnership with another Latin legend, Tito Puente and was soon headlined in concerts in New York.
In 1990 she received a Grammy for Best Tropical Latin Performance and in 1992 she starred in Mambo Kings with Antonio Banderas and Armand Asante. President Bill Clinton awarded her the National Medal of Arts in 1994.
Celia Cruz died of brain cancer on July 16, 2003 and her body was taken to Miami to lie in state for 200,000 mourners who came to pay their respects to the “Queen of Salsa.” She was returned to New Jersey, were her funeral was attended by thousands of grieving fans.
Celia Cruz has influenced many of the Latin stars we hear on the airwaves today including Gloria Estefan, Mark Anthony, and Jennifer Lopez.