The death of Celia Cruz paralyzed the world of Latin music on July 16, 2003 and caused a great impact among his followers. On the 20th anniversary of his departure, his incomparable voice, energy, humility and his cry of “Sugar!”which became her label, are still alive among her admirers, even among those who did not know her.
Nor does anyone forget her striking dresses and daring and colorful wigs with which the woman looked impeccable. “queen of salsa,” a title she earned in her own right in a career spanning five decades, which began in his native Cuba and continued in the United States, where he went into exile in 1961.
Úrsula Hilaria Celia de la Caridad Cruz and Alfonso de la Santísima Trinidad (1925-2003), a black and Cuban woman of humble origins, made her way and prevailed in a genre dominated by men, who loved and respected her.
Yesterday, 20 years after “The Guarachera of Cuba” lose the battle against cancer the Cuban community paid tribute to her by dedicating their parade and float to her in New York, where its mayor Eric Adams declared July 16 “Celia Cruz Day.”while his followers did not mind the heavy rain and went to his mausoleum at Woodlawn Cemetery in The Bronx, including 43-year-old Michael Grazino.
Graziano, who was wearing a T-shirt with the singer’s face, recalled when, at the age of 9, he heard Cruz for the first time: “I was about to sleep when I heard ‘bemba colorá, hear that you have the bemba colorá.’ I was mesmerized and I asked my mother who was singing and she insisted that she go to sleep and I to know who that woman was. He told me ‘Celia Cruz’ and from that day on his name was recorded forever”, he indicated while other admirers told EFE that it was important to pay tribute to their queen.
“I remember Celia with the same strength, love and sweetness because she is what has always prevailed in our friendship”the Cuban singer Lucrecia, who gave life to the popular interpreter in a musical and refers to her as if she were alive, comments to EFE. “The admiration I feel for Celia is untouchable for me”affirms and emphasizes that the late singer is “it gets bigger and bigger” because young people who did not know him are among his new followers.
Cruz showed his interest in music from a young age, but his father wanted him to be teacher “one of the few careers that a poor black could study in Cuba” Cuban philologist Rosa Marquetti recalls in her book “Celia en Cuba (1925-1962)” about the singer’s career in her country, a period about which not much is known.
Celia was not made famous by the Fania
He told EFE that with his book, published in 2022, he wanted to show that “Celia is a phenomenon that transcends generations, that she was a diva and that her contributions to Cuban music were enormous” and also put an end to the idea that it was the Fania orchestra that made it famous.
”With the Fania her popularity expanded, because she had already traveled and was famous in other countries (before arriving in the United States) where she traveled singing with the Sonora Matancera. In Cuba she did lyrical theater, vernacular theater, she was one of the great stars of the Tropicana cabaret and she did a radio soap opera ”he remembered.
He assures that beyond the musical legacy, the singer left a legacy for Latinas “of his values, of his perseverance, intelligence, of knowing how to fight for his dreams, of his sagacity to deal with complex situations”.
“She knew how to impose herself without losing human quality, without stepping on anyone’s head and many women identify with that legacy, including me” Marquetti stated.
“He had respect for the public, he was aware of who he was, he knew the weight of his name but also that without that public he would not have gotten where he did”added the author, who is working on the second part of the story of the artist’s career.
When his death became known, fans gathered in front of the New York funeral home where his remains were brought and sang while hugging his photos and records, while sharing memories for long hours.
After almost a week of massive obsequies of popular fervor, in which her remains were veiled in Miami and New York, she was buried in her mausoleum and rests with her husband. Peter Knightwho died four years later.
His death has not stopped the recognition of this icon of Latin music, and among the tributes is the release of the Barbie-Celia Cruz doll next Septemberand in 2025 will be immortalized on a 25-cent coin in the United States.