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Nicknamed the Queen of Salsa, Celia Cruz recorded more than seventy albums, collaborating with many of the leading figures in Latin popular music. Her career spanned more than five decades, during which Cruz gained a reputation for her tireless work, warm personality, and emotive style of singing. In performance, Cruz was known for skillfully improvising lyrics. She was one of a few successful female vocalists in a genre dominated by men.

Born in a poor section of Havana, Cuba, Cruz demonstrated her singing talents at a very young age, but she studied to be an elementary-school teacher because her father did not consider singing to be a suitable career for a woman. Encouraged by her mother and a teacher, she nevertheless pursued a singing career.

Cruz began her musical career performing for prizes in contests held on the radio or at local venues. In 1950 she became ...

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Juan Carlos Rodriguez

singer, popularly known as the Queen of Salsa, was born Ursula Hilaria Celia Caridad Cruz Alfonso in the Santo Suárez neighborhood of Havana, Cuba, the second daughter of Catalina “Ollita” Alfonso, a housewife, and Simón Cruz, a railroad stoker.

From an early age, Cruz was drawn to music. She was born into an era in Cuba where musical styles such as guaguanco and guaracha carried West African rhythms into the streets. One of the first styles she was drawn to was Cuban sons, languid tropical ballads sung by popular radio singers, and she was particularly influenced by Paulina Alvarez. Argentine tangos by Carlos Gardel were also among her favorites. Despite her father's disapproval, Cruz's mother and her aunt Ana, two major figures in her life, encouraged her to sing.

More profoundly however Cruz came to learn about her own African roots when she stole away with a young ...

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Beatriz Rivera-Barnes

Afro-Cuban musician. Cruz was born Úrsula Hilaria Celia Caridad Cruz Alfonso in a neighborhood known as Santos Suárez in Havana, Cuba. In her autobiography she describes Santos Suárez as the poorer section of a working-class neighborhood of different races and ethnicities. As to the date of her birth, she always said that anyone wishing to know her age would have to wait until the funeral home made the date public.

Early on, Cruz's father insisted that each of his children must have a profession, so she decided to become a schoolteacher. In 1947 however while she was a student at Havana s teacher s college one of her cousins signed her up to compete in an amateur singing contest at a local radio station the first of many contests she won Though she became well known at several radio stations owing to her singing prowess she only entered ...