10 years after Celia Cruz’s passing, she continues to be remembered as one of Latin music’s greatest sensations. Yo Soy Celia Cruz is the new biographical documentary commemorating her life through interviews and some of her greatest hits.
The Queen of Salsa was internationally revered for her powerful voice and electrifying rhythm. She had multiple platinum and gold records, three GRAMMY awards, four Latin GRAMMY awards, and earned a star on Hollywood’s Walk of Fame. Celia Cruz appeared in movies, and was awarded the American National Medal of the Arts by the National Endowment of the Arts. Celia Cruz’s deep seated humanitarianism made her the world’s most known ambassador of Hispanic culture.
Celia Cruz was born in the working- class Havana, Cuba neighborhood of Santos Suarez in October 21, 1925. She was the second of four children. Her father, Simon Cruz, was a railroad stoker and her mother, Catalina Alfonso (Ollita) 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 Rodriguez. Cruz also studied the words to Yoruba songs with colleague Mercedita Valdes (an Akpwon santeria singer) from Cuba and Celia made various recordings of this religious genre singing even back up for other female akpwons like Candita Batist.
She first gained recognition in the 1950s as a singer with the orchestra Sonora Matancera. Relocating to the United States after the ascent of Fidel Castro, Cruz recorded 23 gold records with Tito Puente, the Fania All-Stars and other collaborators. Cruz died in New Jersey in 2003, at the age of 77.
Leila Cobo of Billboard Magazine once said "Cruz is indisputably the best known and most influential female figure in the history of Cuban music.”
Yo Soy Celia Cruz airs on WLRN TV Tuesday, July 16 at 9 p.m.