Photo: Wikimedia/Ibrahim Arce (Narcy Studios photographer), most likely
News and Entertainment

9 Fabulous Moments in The Life of Celia Cruz

Born Ursula Hilaria Celia de la Caridad Cruz Alfonso, Celia Cruz is a household name. In her almost 60-year career, she broke records and amassed over 100 awards. The Cuban superstar recorded over 70 albums—23 of them certified gold, and others platinum. She was in countless TV shows, and films, won three Grammys (plus a Lifetime Achievement Award) and four Latin Grammys, had three streets named after her.
The Guarachera de Cuba was a winner. An innovator. An original. She accomplished so much, and has served as an inspiration to so many. In celebration of her October 21 birthday (she would have been 93), here are nine fabulous moments in the amazing life of Celia Cruz–the Queen of Salsa, and the Queen of Latin Music.

A Legend is Born


Celia Cruz was born October 21, 1925, in Havana, Cuba. She is the daughter of Simon Cruz and Catalina Alfonso. Celia was one of four siblings, but grew up with 14 total children, that consisted of siblings, cousins and extended family.

Wins “La Hora del Te” Singing Contest

In the 1940s, Celia won a singing contest thrown by a Cuban radio station. This led to her singing professionally on the island.

Joined La Sonora Mantacera

During the 1950s, Celia Cruz replaced Myrta Silva as the lead singer of the Afro-Cuban band La Sonora Mantacera. She stayed with the group for 15 years, during which she became famous, and met her husband, Pedro Knight (the band’s lead trumpeter and later her musical director and manager).

Married Her Soulmate Pedro Knight

Celia married her cabecita de algodon (little head of cotton, as she called her white-haired husband) Pedro Knight on July 14, 1962 in New York. The lovebirds were married for 41 years, until her death in 2003.

Celia y Johnny/Celia & Johnny is Released

View this post on Instagram

Now Playing: “Celia y Johnny,” the most important album in Celia Cruz’s career, the one that opened the doors of success for the famous Cuban singer with the force of a raging bull. The classic Salsa music Fania recording “Celia & Johnny” celebrates 43 years since its release and continues to receive honorable recognition. I consider it a historical Salsa album in more than one way, and it will now be preserved by the U.S. Library of Congress. Celia & Johnny” not only was the album that started a great musical collaboration between Celia and the Dominican band leader, it also was a great commercial success and gave her exposure to the Salsa fans that came onboard with the Fania-infused Salsa boom of the late 60’s and early 70’s. #celiayjohnny #onmyturntable #nowplaying #vinylcollection #recordcollection #vinyl #nowspinning #salsa #celiacruz #fania #johnnypacheco

A post shared by Viktor Kbzas (@victorheadz) on

History was made with the 1974 release of Celia’s album with Johnny Pacheco, entitled Celia y Johnny/Celia & Johnny. It was a successful album, which was chosen for preservation in the Library of Congress in 2013.

First Grammy

View this post on Instagram

Tonight from 7.30 p.m, the 60th Annual Grammy Awards will be held at the Madison Square Garden in New York City. Presented this year by British actor and singer James Corden and will be broadcast as every year by the CBS network. As every year the Latin musical environment is also present with nominations such as: Albita, Diego El Cigala, Ruben Blades, Aida Cuevas, Jorge Drexler, Natalia Lafourcade, Juanes, Zukeyka Rivera, Luis Fonsi, among others. Good luck to all the nominees in each of the categories. We also remember that 28 years ago, during the 32nd Grammy Awards, Celia Cruz was awarded with a Grammy for Best Traditional Tropical Latin Album for her album with the percussionist Ray Barretto, entitled: "Ritmo en el Corazón" (Rhythm in the Heart) #CeliaCruz #azucar #cuba #salsa #newyorkcity #newyork #2018 #grammyawards #grammys #grammys2018 #madisonsquaregarden #arena #latinos #latinosbelike #latinosproud #latinmusic #latinculture #albita #diegoelcigala #rubenblades #aidacuevas #jorgedexler #natalialafourcade #juanes #zuleykarivera #luisfonsi #world #cubansinexile #cubansinnewyork #cuban

A post shared by Celia Cruz 🇨🇺👸🏽(fan page) (@celia_cruz_azucar) on

In 1989, Celia Cruz won her first Grammy Award. It was for Best Tropical Latin Performance, for her album Ritmo En El Corazon, recorded with Ray Barretto.

A Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame

Celia received her star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame on September 17, 1987. It is located at 6240 Hollywood Blvd.

Receives National Medal of Arts

The National Medal of Arts is the “highest award given to artists and arts patrons by the United States government…” for “outstanding contributions to the excellence, growth, support and availability of the arts in the United States.” President Bill Clinton presented Celia Cruz with the medal in 1994.

Honorary Doctorates

View this post on Instagram

Celia Cruz was awarded an honorary Doctorate Degree in Music at FIU'S 1992 spring commencement ceremony at Florida International University 1992. At the 1992 Spring Commencement Ceremony, Celia-one of the most recognizable figures in the history of Cuban Music-was awarded an honorary Doctorate Degree in Music President George H.W. Bush, who was also presented with an honorary doctorate during the ceremony recognized the Cuban music Icon in his remarks. "May I also salute my fellow honoree: Celia Cruz, 'Queen of the Latin American Music'… Doctor of Salsa", he said to laughter. "She's captured the soul of a culture in her music. She asked me where First Lady Barbara Bush was… If she were here-she's a great Celia admirer-she would give her un grande abrazo like the rest of us do. Celia, congratulations" #CeliaCruz #azucar #cuba #salsa #florida #fiu #springcommencement #ceremony #1992 #georgebush #world #cubansinexile #cubansinnewyork #cuban #estadosunidos #unitedstates

A post shared by Celia Cruz 🇨🇺👸🏽(fan page) (@celia_cruz_azucar) on

Celia Cruz was honored with honorary doctorates at three different universities. She received an honorary doctorate degree of music from Yale in 1989, a doctorate honoris causa from Florida International University in 1992, and a doctorate honoris causa in music from the University of Miami in 1999.