Celia Cruz Becomes First Afro-Latina on U.S. Currency

Iconic Cuban singer Celia Cruz has made history as one of  five honorees in the 2024 American Women Quarters Program

Celia Cruz

Photo: Wikimedia/Lionel Decoster

Iconic Cuban singer Celia Cruz has made history as one of  five honorees in the 2024 American Women Quarters Program. The Queen of Salsa was one of the most popular Latin singers of the 20th century and her popularity hasn’t wavered. This isn’t the first time she’s honored on a national level, in 2011, Celia was honored by the U.S. Postal Service with a commemorative postage stamp among other Latin music icons including Selena, Tito Puente, Carmen Miranda and Carlos Gardel. The Celia Cruz quarter is set to debut mid-2023 and there’s no doubt it will quickly become a collector’s item especially considering the historic nature of it.

The American Women Quarters Program is a four-year program that celebrates the accomplishments and contributions made by women in the U.S. Beginning in 2022, and continuing through 2025, the U.S. Mint will issue up to five new reverse designs each year. Cruz joins fellow Latina Adelina “Nina” Otero-Warren, a Mexican American voting rights activist from New Mexico who was the first Latina to run for Congress. Her quarter’s design included an image of Otero-Warren and yucca flowers — New Mexico’s state flowers — along with the suffragist slogan  “Voto para la mujer.” No word yet on what Celia’s quarter will look like but we imagine it’ll be a nod to the impact she’s had on the music industry and perhaps her signature phrase: “azúcar” with sugarcane from Cuba.

“All of the women being honored have lived remarkable and multi-faceted lives, and have made a significant impact on our Nation in their own unique way,” Mint Director Ventris C. Gibson said in a statement. “The women pioneered change during their lifetimes, not yielding to the status quo imparted during their lives. By honoring these pioneering women, the Mint continues to connect America through coins which are like small works of art in your pocket.”

Úrsula Hilaria Celia de la Caridad Cruz Alonso was born in Barrio Santos Suarez in Havana, Cuba Oct. 21, 1925. She got her big break as the lead female singer for La Sonora Matancera, Cuba’s famous orchestra, and later joined Tito Puente Orchestra in the 1960s. She became the only female All-Star signed with Fania, a record label that had launched solely dedicated to salsa. Her success in the male-dominated industry extended to the U.S. when she moved to New York in 1962 after the Cuban Revolution. She was unable to return to her homeland until 1990 and she saved some of the soil from that visit to be buried with her.  She died in 2003 at the age of 77. In the span of her career she recorded more than 80 albums and songs, earned 23 Gold Records, and  was given a Lifetime Achievement Grammy award. Some of her most famous songs include “”La Vida Es Un Carnaval”, “La Negra Tiene Tumbao”, and “Quimbara”.

The other 2024 honorees include Patsy Takemoto Mink, the first woman of color to serve in Congress; Dr. Mary Edwards Walker, a Civil War surgeon and suffragist; Pauli Murray, a lawyer and civil rights activist; and Zitkala-Ša, a voting rights activist of the Yankton Sioux Nation.

The American Women Quarters program will continue through 2025 and we hope to see more Latina representation in the future.

In this Article

Afro-Latina Celia Cruz Featured trending
More on this topic