61 Facts About Celia Cruz


Ursula Hilaria Celia de la Caridad Cruz Alfonso, known as Celia Cruz, was a Cuban singer and one of the most popular Latin artists of the 20th century.


Celia Cruz began her career in her native Cuba, earning recognition as a vocalist of the popular musical group Sonora Matancera, a musical association that lasted fifteen years.


Celia Cruz mastered a wide variety of Afro-Cuban music styles including guaracha, rumba, afro, son and bolero, recording numerous singles in these styles for Seeco Records.


In 1960, after the Cuban Revolution caused the nationalization of the music industry, Celia Cruz left her native country, becoming one of the symbols and spokespersons of the Cuban community in exile.


Celia Cruz continued her career, first in Mexico, and then in the United States, the country that she took as her definitive residence.


Celia Cruz often appeared live with Fania All-Stars and collaborated with Johnny Pacheco and Willie Colon.


Ursula Hilaria Celia de la Caridad Cruz Alfonso was born on 21 October 1925, at 47 Serrano Street in the Santos Suarez neighborhood of Havana, Cuba.


Celia Cruz's father, Simon Cruz, was a railway stoker, and her mother, Catalina Alfonso Ramos, a housewife who took care of an extended family.


Celia Cruz was one of the eldest among fourteen children living in the house, including cousins and her three siblings, Dolores, Gladys, and Barbaro, and she used to sing cradle songs to put them to sleep.


Celia Cruz sang in school during the Fridays' actos civicos and in her neighborhood ensemble, Boton de oro.


Celia Cruz studied the words to Yoruba songs with colleague Merceditas Valdes from Cuba and later made various recordings of this religious genre, even singing backup for other akpwons like Candita Batista.


From 1947, Celia Cruz studied music theory, voice, and piano at Havana's National Conservatory of Music.


Celia Cruz sang in other amateur radio programs such as La suprema corte del arte, broadcast by CMQ, always winning first prize.


In 2004, the Miami Herald revealed from partially declassified US State Department papers that Celia Cruz had been linked to Cuba's pre-Revolution communist party, the Popular Socialist Party, as early as the 1940s.


The article states that Celia Cruz had joined the youth wing of the PSP at age 20 and had used a concert to arrange a secret meeting with communists in South America on behalf of its then general secretary, Blas Roca Calderio, who has founded the party in 1925.


Celia Cruz had signed a public letter in support of one of the Party's front groups, the Pro-Peace Congress.


The article states that Celia Cruz's surviving husband, Pedro Knight, was asked about this, and is quoted he knew nothing about it.


Celia Cruz later joined Orquesta de Ernesto Duarte, Gloria Matancera, Sonora Caracas and Orquesta Anacaona.


Celia Cruz was hired with this group as a singer, reaching great success and making presentations in Mexico and Venezuela, where she made her first recordings.


Shortly thereafter, Celia Cruz began to sing on musical programs at Radio Cadena Suaritos, along with a group that performed Santeria music under the direction of Obdulio Morales.


On 15 December 1950, Celia Cruz recorded her first songs with the group, which were a resounding success.


Celia Cruz won her first gold record for "Burundanga", making her first trip to the United States in 1957 to receive the award and to perform at St Nicholas Arena, New York.


Celia Cruz never imagined that she would never set foot on Cuban soil again.


In 1962, before the refusal of the Cuban government to allow her to return to Cuba, Celia Cruz acquired a house in Fort Lee, New Jersey.


In 1965, Celia Cruz would culminate a vertiginous fifteen years with the Sonora Matancera.


Celia Cruz began a solo career and her husband Pedro Knight decided to leave his position at Sonora Matancera to become her representative, arranger and personal director.


In 1966, Celia Cruz was contacted by Tito Puente to perform with his orchestra.


Celia Cruz recorded albums with other musical directors such as Memo Salamanca, Juan Bruno Tarraza and Lino Frias for Tico Records.


Celia Cruz then joined the Fania All-Stars, a salsa supergroup featuring the most popular performers of the Fania roster.


Celia Cruz later travelled with the group to Kinshasa, Zaire, in 1974 and returned to San Juan in 1975 for another concert.


Celia Cruz recorded her first studio album for Fania in 1974 in collaboration with Johnny Pacheco, the label's founder and musical director.


When touring with Colon, Celia Cruz wore a flamboyant costume, which included various colored wigs, tight sequined dresses, and very high heels.


In 1982, Celia Cruz was reunited with the Sonora Matancera and recorded the album Feliz Encuentro.


In 1987, Celia Cruz performed a concert in Santa Celia Cruz de Tenerife.


In 1990, Celia Cruz won her first Grammy Award for her album Ritmo en el corazon, recorded with Ray Barretto.


Celia Cruz was invited to celebrate the 65th anniversary of the Sonora Matancera in Central Park in New York.


Celia Cruz was invited to make a presentation at the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base.


In 1995, Celia Cruz made a guest appearance in the American film The Perez Family, along with Alfred Molina and Anjelica Huston.


Celia Cruz played the role of a black woman who gives birth to a white daughter.


Thanks to this album, Celia Cruz was awarded her first Latin Grammy.


In 2002, Celia Cruz released the album, La negra tiene tumbao, where she ventured into modern variants of Caribbean rhythms, influenced by rap and hip hop.


On 16 July 2002, Celia Cruz performed to a full house at the free outdoor performing arts festival Central Park SummerStage in New York City.


Confident, Celia Cruz said she did not shed one tear and that she was aiming to resume her artistic career.


Celia Cruz finished recording her last album, Regalo del Alma.


Celia Cruz was recognized with a star on Boulevard Amador Bendayan in Caracas, Venezuela, and a figure in the Hollywood Wax Museum.


Besides, Celia Cruz received three Honoris Causa doctorates from three universities in the United States: Yale University, Florida International University and the University of Miami.


Celia Cruz was inducted into the International Latin Music Hall of Fame in 1999.


From 26 September 2007 to 25 May 2008, Celia, a musical based on the life of Celia Cruz, played at the Off-Broadway venue New World Stages.


On 16 March 2011, Celia Cruz was honored by the United States Postal Service with a commemorative postage stamp.


The Celia Cruz stamp was one of a group of five stamps honoring Latin music greats, including Selena, Tito Puente, Carmen Miranda, and Carlos Gardel.


The Smithsonian's National Museum of American History collaborated with photographer Robert Weingarten to create an object-based portrait of Celia Cruz featuring artifacts in the museum.


Also in 2013, Celia Cruz was inducted into the New Jersey Hall Fame.


Celia Cruz was played by the actresses Jeimy Osorio and Aymee Nuviola and counted on the voice of Patty Padilla.


In 2019, Angelique Kidjo released a tribute album to Cruz, entitled Celia, including songs spanning all of Celia's Cruz career reinvented with an Afrobeat feel.


In 2018, a monument to Celia Cruz was unveiled in the Cuban Heritage Park in Hialeah, Florida.


Also in 2018, the Celia Cruz Estate launched a brand inspired by Cruz which featured merchandise inspired and about Cruz.


On June 2,2021, the City of New York honored Celia Cruz by co-naming the intersection of Reservoir Avenue and East 195th Street in the Kingsbridge Heights section of The Bronx, near the High School that is the named in her honor, "Celia Cruz Way".


In February 2023, Celia Cruz was selected as an honoree in the 2024 American Women quarter program, making her the first Afro-Latina to appear on a USquarter.


Celia Cruz has received two awards from fourteen nominations, as well as a non-competitive Lifetime Achievement award.


Celia Cruz has won four awards out of seven nominations.


Celia Cruz is the recipient of the president's National Medal of Arts.