Celia Cruz

Real Name : Ursula Hilaria Celia de la Caridad Cruz Alfonso de la Santisima Trinidad

Born: 21/10/1925
Birth place: Havana (Cuba)

Citizenship : USA, Cuba

Occupation : Singer
Active Years: 1948 to 2003

Die : 16-07-2003 (77 yo) Fort Lee, New Jersey (USA)
Cause of death: Brain Cancer


Celia Cruz was a Cuban-American salsa singer/performer. One of the most popular salsa artists of the 20th century, she earned twenty-three gold albums and was a recipient of the National Medal of Arts. She was renowned internationally as the "Queen of Salsa", "La Guarachera de Cuba", as well as The Queen of Latin Music.

She spent much of her career working in the United States and several Latin American countries. Leila Cobo of Billboard Magazine once said "Cruz is indisputably the best known and most influential female figure in the history of Cuban music".


Úrsula Hilaria Celia de la Caridad Cruz Alfonso was born on October 21, 1925 in the diverse, working-class neighborhood of Santos Suárez in Havana, Cuba, the second of four children. Her father, Simon Cruz, was a railroad stoker and her mother, Catalina Alfonso was a homemaker who took care of an extended family of fourteen.

While growing up in Cuba's diverse 1930s musical climate, Cruz listened to many musicians who influenced her adult career, including Fernando Collazo, Abelardo Barroso, Pablo Quevedo and Arsenio Rodríguez. Despite her mother's opposition and the fact that she was Catholic, as a child Cruz learned santería songs from her neighbor who practiced santería. Cruz also later studied the words to Yoruba songs with colleague Mercedita Valdes (an Akpwon santería singer) from Cuba and made various recordings of this religious genre, even singing back up for other female akpwons like Candita Batista.

As a teenager, her aunt took her and her cousin to cabarets to sing, but her father encouraged her to attend school in the hope she would become a teacher. However, one of her teachers told her that as an entertainer she could earn in one day what most Cuban teachers earned in a month. Cruz began singing in Havana's radio station Radio Garcia-Serra's popular "Hora del Té" daily broadcast, where she sang the tango "Nostalgias" and won a cake as first place. She often won cakes and also opportunities to participate in more contests. Her first recordings were made in 1948 in Venezuela.


she appeared in cameos in some Mexican films such as Salon México (1950) and Una gallega en La Habana (1952).

When Fidel Castro assumed control of Cuba in 1959, Cruz and her husband, Pedro Knight, refused to return to their homeland and became citizens of the United States. In 1966, Cruz and Tito Puente began an association that would lead to eight albums for Tico Records. The albums were not as successful as expected. However, Puente and Cruz later joined the Vaya Records label. There, she joined accomplished pianist Larry Harlow and was soon headlining a concert at New York's Carnegie Hall.

Cruz's 1974 album with Johnny Pacheco, Celia y Johnny, was very successful, and Cruz soon found herself in a group named the Fania All-Stars, which was an ensemble of salsa musicians from every orchestra signed by the Fania label (owner of Vaya Records). With the Fania All-Stars, Cruz had the opportunity to visit England, France, Zaire (today's DR Congo), and to return to tour Latin America; her performance in Zaire is included in the film Soul Power. In the late 1970s, she participated in an Eastern Air Lines commercial in Puerto Rico, singing the catchy phrase ¡Esto sí es volar! (This really is flying!).

In 1976, she participated in a documentary film Salsa about the Latin culture, along with figures like Dolores del Río and Willie Colon.

Celia Cruz used to sing the identifying spot for WQBA radio station in Miami, formerly known as "La Cubanísima": "I am the voice of Cuba, from this land, far away,..., I am liberty, I am WQBA, the most Cuban! (Yo soy de Cuba, la voz, desde esta tierra lejana, ..., soy libertad, soy WQBA, Cubanísima!) During the 1980s, Cruz made many tours in Latin America and Europe, doing multiple concerts and television shows wherever she went, and singing both with younger stars and stars of her own era. She began a crossover of sorts, when she participated in the 1988 feature film Salsa alongside Robby Draco Rosa.

In 1990, Cruz won a Grammy Award for Best Tropical Latin Performance - Ray Barretto & Celia Cruz - Ritmo en el Corazon. She later recorded an anniversary album with Sonora Matancera. In 1992, she starred with Armand Assante and Antonio Banderas in the film The Mambo Kings. In 1994, President Bill Clinton awarded Cruz the National Medal of Arts. In the same year, she was inducted into Billboards Latin Music Hall of Fame along with fellow Cuban musician Cachao López. In 2001, she recorded a new album, on which Johnny Pacheco was one of the producers.

On July 16, 2002, Cruz performed to a full house at the free outdoor performing arts festival Central Park SummerStage in New York City. During the performance she sang "Bemba Colora." A live recording of this song was subsequently made available in 2005 on a commemorative CD honoring the festival's then 20-year history entitled, "Central Park SummerStage: Live from the Heart of the City". Cruz appeared on the 2006 Dionne Warwick album My Friends & Me.


Celia Cruz's mausoleum in Woodlawn Cemetery, The Bronx, New York.

On July 16, 2003, Cruz died of brain cancer at her home in Fort Lee, New Jersey, at the age of 77. Her husband, Pedro Knight (died February 3, 2007), was there for her while she was going through cancer treatments. She had no children with him. After her death, her body was taken to lie in state in Miami's Freedom Tower, where more than 200,000 fans paid their final respects. Knight had Cruz buried in a granite mausoleum that he had built in Woodlawn Cemetery in the Bronx earlier in 2003, when she was dying. Knight chose the plot on which it stands, which is near the gravestones of Duke Ellington and Miles Davis, because it was accessible to fans, and had four windows built into it so that fans could see inside when paying their respects. Knight was known to share his time there with visiting fans. Knight himself was buried with Cruz in the same mausoleum following his death on February 3, 2007. An epilogue in her autobiography notes that, in accordance with her wishes, Cuban soil which she had saved from a visit to Guantánamo Bay was used in her entombment.


  •     2003 Homenaje a Beny Moré
  •     2003 Celia & Johnny
  •     2003 Dios Disfrute a la Reina
  •     2003 Son Boleros, Boleros Son
  •     2003 Reina de la Música Cubana
  •     2003 Regalo del Alma
  •     2003 Más Grande Historia Jamás Cantada
  •     2003 Estrellas de la Sonora Matancera
  •     2003 Celia in the House: Classic Hits Remixed
  •     2003 Carnaval de la Vida
  •     2003 Candela Pura
  •     2002 Unrepeatable
  •     2002 Hits Mix
  •     2001 La Negra Tiene Tumbao
  •     2000 Siempre Viviré
  •     2000 Salsa
  •     2000 Habanera
  •     2000 Celia Cruz and Friends: A Night of Salsa
  •     1999 En Vivo Radio Progreso, Vol. 3
  •     1999 En Vivo Radio Progreso, Vol. 2
  •     1999 En Vivo Radio Progreso, Vol. 1
  •     1999 En Vivo C.M.Q., Vol. 5
  •     1999 En Vivo C.M.Q., Vol. 4
  •     1998 Mi Vida Es Cantar
  •     1998 Afro-Cubana
  •     1997 También Boleros
  •     1997 Duets
  •     1997 Cambiando Ritmos
  •     1996 Celia Cruz Delta
  •     1995 Irresistible
  •     1995 Festejando Navidad
  •     1995 Double Dynamite
  •     1995 Cuba's Queen of Rhythm
  •     1994 Merengue Saludos Amigos
  •     1994 Mambo del Amor
  •     1994 Irrepetible
  •     1994 Homenaje a Los Santos
  •     1994 Guaracheras de La Guaracha
  •     1993 Introducing
  •     1993 Homenaje a Beny Moré, Vol. 3
  •     1993 Boleros Polydor
  •     1993 Azucar Negra
  •     1992 Verdadera Historia
  •     1992 Tributo a Ismael Rivera


  •     1991 Reina del Ritmo Cubano
  •     1991 Canta Celia Cruz
  •     1990 Guarachera del Mundo
  •     1988 Ritmo en el Corazón
  •     1987 Winners
  •     1986 De Nuevo        
  •     1986 Candela
  •     1983 Tremendo Trío
  •     1982 Feliz Encuentro
  •     1981 Celia & Willie
  •     1980 Celia/Johnny/Pete
  •     1977 Only They Could Have Made This Album
  •     1976 Recordando El Ayer
  •     1975 Tremendo Caché
  •     1974 Celia & Johnny
  •     1971 Celia Y Tito Puente en España
  •     1970 Etc. Etc. Etc.
  •     1969 Quimbo Quimbumbia
  •     1968 Serenata Guajira
  •     1968 Excitante
  •     1967 A Ti México
  •     1967 Bravo Celia Cruz
  •     1966 Son con Guaguancó
  •     1966 Cuba Y Puerto Rico Son
  •     1965 Sabor y Ritmo de Pueblos
  •     1965 Canciones que Yo Quería Haber Grabado Primero
  •     1965 Canciones Premiadas
  •     1959 Mi Diario Musical
  •     1958 Incomparable Celia



  • Salón México (Mexico, 1950)
  • Una gallega en La Habana (Mexico, 1952)
  • ¡Olé... Cuba! (Mexico/Cuba, 1957)
  • Affair in Havana (USA/Cuba, 1957)
  • Amorcito Corazon (Mexico, 1960)
  • Salsa (Documentary, 1976)
  • Mambo Kings (USA, 1992)
  • Valentina (TV) (Mexico, 1993)
  • The Perez Family (USA, 1995) Luz Pat
  • El alma no tiene color (TV) (Mexico, 1997)
  • Celia Cruz: ¡Azucar! (TV) (Tribute, USA, 2003)


Grammy Awards won

  • 1989      "Ritmo En El Corazon" - Best Tropical Latin Performance
  • 2000      Celia Cruz and Friends: A Night of Salsa - Best Salsa Performance
  • 2001      "Siempre Viviré" - Best Tropical Traditional Album
  • 2002      La Negra Tiene Tumbao - Best Salsa Album
  • 2003      La Negra Tiene Tumbao - Best Salsa Album
  • 2003      Regalo del Alma - Best Salsa/Merengue Album
  • 2004      Regalo del Alma - Best Salsa Album