Ay Celia… I celebrate her this September – October in my La Vida En Hispanic Heritage Month posts and I would be remiss to not celebrate La Reina, So here ya go!
As a constant source of inspiration you never fail to impress, Celia you still reign supreme in a world where you were meant to be just a this or a that. But it was your destiny to touch hearts it was your purpose to make your people proud, that those who looked like feel as though they to could be respected and revered by their grace, talent, beauty.
As the ONLY Afro-Latina with her very own expansive exhibit displayed in the Smithsonian Museum of American History in Washington DC, you had weaved yourself into the very fabric of this country, unlike any other Afro-Latina in the world. The exhibit was complete with costumes designed by you and your music it was such an amazing thing to see and enjoy.
A Grammy nominee, ten times over, Celia sang only in Spanish because as she used to claim her “English was not very good looking.”
She received a Smithsonian Lifetime Achievement award, a National Medal of the Arts, and honorary doctorates from Yale and the University of Miami. A street in Miami was also renamed in her honor.
Her trademark orange, red, and white polka dot dress (an original Celia design) and her personally designed shoes have been placed in the permanent collection of the Smithsonian Institute of Technology. According to the European Jazz Network, Celia “commands her realm with a down-to-earth dignity unmistakably vibrant in her wide smile and striking pose.”
Celia was a big star in Cuba before she came to the US. She replaced the Puerto Rican singer Myrta Silva in the famed Cuban Orchestra, La Sonora Matancera in 1950 much to the chagrin of the white aristocracy in Cuba. This singular move would propell the orchestra and Celia to international stardom. She became one of the first Afro-Latina women to lead an orchestra and Sonora Matancera took Cuban music around the world with Celia Cruz as “La Guarachera Cubana.”
I will never forget the way I felt driving down Constitution Ave, when I saw this mega building sized poster of Celia emblazoned with her battle cry to sing Azùcar! in DC. Our national museum of American History had this beautiful icon covering the front of their building it was a win. And I remember thinking ..wow Celia, you were
It was amazing to see An entire exhibit devoted to our queen, our music, the ancestors were so very pleased. Couldnt you feel it in her voice? I can, to this day, still hear her singing in my heart, felt her spirit in my soul, “La Vida Es Un Carnival”
La Vida Es Un Carnival Live
I was filled with an inexplicable level of pride at who Celia was and what Celia Cruz means to me and people who look like me. She is irreplaceable our Queen, La Reina! It was confirming to see that Celia Cruz a naturalized citizen, of these United States was still honored and revered with her own exhibit. She was a treasure.
I have my favorite songs of Celia’s I love “Usted Abuso” with its lovely arrangements and of course “La Negra Tiene Timbao” my anthem because I am Ese Negrita que esta caminando…
But the song that just breaks my heart in its mastery of lyrics is a cover En Español of I Will Survive. Recorded just months before she succumbed to brain cancer. Her voice rich but strained emmitted the wonderful Adios of this legendary singer.
“Yo Vivire, en el alma de mi gente, en el cuero del tambor, en las manos del congero, en los pies del bailador, yo vivire, ahi estar, mientras pase una comparsa, con mi rumba cantare, sere siempre lo que fui con mi azucar para ti, yo vivire, yo vivire…”
(Translation) “I will survive, in the soul of my people, in the skin of our drum, in the hands of the drummer, in the feet of the dancer, I will survive, and there it is, while my song is playing, with my rumba I will sing, always being alive with my azucar for you I will survive… I will survive”
Below every latin vocalist from Gloria Estefan to Jose Feliciano and Marc Anthony come on stage with Celia to sing one last song with her. A truly proper goodbye. I am always rendered to tears each time I see it.
An All Star Tribute To Living Legend Celia Cruz
I Still cant listen to any of her music without breaking out in dance either… So this post is in gratitude… Thank you God, Mil Gracias a Dios por la Vida En Black of La Reina, Celia Cruz!
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