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Celia Cruz

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Ursula Hilaria Celia Caridad Cruz Alfonso, also known as just Celia Cruz, was born in La Havana, Cuba, on October 1925. She was one of the most successful Cuban performers and had rightfully earned the title of the “Queen of Salsa”. Celia Cruz was born to Catalina Alfonso (Ollita) and Simón Cruz in a neighborhood of La Havana called Santo Suarez. When she was a girl she sang lullabies to smaller children, her voice attracted nearby neighbors who would come to listen and she even got her first pair of shoes by singing for some tourists. She was supposed to become a teacher but her talent and voice quickly showed otherwise. Cruz began singing in talent contests and on Cuban radio programs. She studied at Havana's Conservatory of Music from 1947 to 1950. In 1948 she made her first recordings in Venezuela with the Leonard Melody and Alfonso Larrain orchestras.

The lead singer of the famous Cuban band La Sonora Matancera, Myrta Silva, left the group and returned to Puerto Rico leaving a spot that Celia Cruz was asked to fill in 1950. Even if she didn’t get much acceptation from the public at first, she remained in the orchestra and became famous throughout Cuba. She made some recordings and toured through Latin America becoming known as Café Con Leche characterized for her shout Azucar!

Cruz didn’t stay in Cuba though; she left in the after math of the Cuban Revolution. After a short period in Mexico, the band settled in the United States. She stayed with the band until 1995 and the next year she joined the orchestra of Tito Puente. She worked with some other bands too, even having a reunion with La Sonora Matancera. She recorded a huge amount of albums and was able to amass her share of Grammies and other musical awards. Cruz has been called "one of the world's great singers" by the New York Times. In July, 2003, she died of a cancerous brain tumor and was buried at the Woodlawn Cemetery in the Bronx leaving behind a legacy of Afro-Cuban music.

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