Ten years after her passing, Celia Cruz has continued to be a symbol of happiness, Cuban pride, and freedom.
Cruz first became famous in Cuba during the 1940’s and 50’s, starting off her career with the popular Sonora Matancera, performing countless songs within the most traditional sounds of the island – guaracha, guaguanco, bolero, rumba, danzon, and many more. When the communist totalitarian government was installed in Cuba in 1959, the singer was prohibited from returning to her homeland and her music was automatically censored by the regime, considering that Celia publicly opposed the system. Despite this, her art continued to count on further popularity around the world and in Cuba, where everyday citizens still listened to her music through “illegal CDs” sent from abroad. Celia became even more famous in the global scale when she began performing with timbalero Tito Puente and later with the salsa group, Fania All Stars, in New York City, providing significant contributions to the world of salsa, where sounds from Cuba, Puerto Rico and the Dominical Republican were joined together in a fast-paced danceable fusion.
Cruz also experimented with other genres from time to time, such as Colombia’s Cumbia, Mexico’s Rancheros, latin pop and even the newer reggaeton, but she always kept her creative and unique, yet traditional, sound.
When the Cuban star died on the 16th of July 2012, thousands – if not millions – of her fans paid tribute to her around the world, especially in New York (where she is buried), New Jersey (where she lived and where various public spots are named after her) and Miami (where her music always plays in parties and public events while paintings of her face decorate streets, shops, museums and other establishments).
Celia Cruz was a Cuban exile who could not return to her island, but she traveled there each night and walked down those streets through her songs. She represented, and continues to represent, with much dignity, the culture and struggle of a people.
She rightfully assumed the titles of “guarachera of the world” and the “queen of salsa”, but for her people, wherever it is they may be, she will always continue to be Cuba’s Guarachera.