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Celebrate Black History Month with Celia Cruz, the Queen of Salsa

Updated: Feb 23, 2021

As Black History Month comes to a close this year, we are reflecting on how we can continue to integrate lessons, history, and culture from black leaders in history and today.

Here’s a gift to take with you into March and beyond: the music and story of Celia Cruz.

Celia cruz singing on stage orange background
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Celia Cruz was a Spanish-speaking Afro Latina singer from Cuba who did what she loved until her final days. As a singer in Cuba in the 50’s, she played with the Sonora Matancera, a band that came to be known famously as Cafe Con Leche, and in the 1960's, they left to tour Mexico. But because of the political situation in Cuba, Celia Cruz never returned to her home country.

She made her way to New York City where she was a vibrant force behind the exploding salsa scene in the 1970’s. Here, she earned the title, La Reina de La Salsa. And she certainly was the Queen of Salsa: She recorded and performed with other salsa greats like Tito Puente, Johnny Pacheco, and Willie Colón. Despite encountering barriers as a non-English-speaking woman of color, she persisted. Celia Cruz never slowed down, and never stopped sharing her love of Cuba, its language, and its music.

The Queen of Salsa won two Latin Grammy Awards, she’s on a stamp at the National Postal Museum, and her dresses are on display at the African American Museum of History and Culture.

3 Ways to Experience the Music, Joy, & Life of Celia Cruz

1. Watch this 2-minute short from The Smithsonian

In this conversation with Ariana A. Curtis, curator at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture, you'll get a sense of the contributions Celia Cruz made to the Latin music scene, especially as an immigrant, a woman, and a person of color. Giving your children context for the music in Spanish that you listen to and sing together gives them a window into how rich and varied Hispanic culture is.

2. Read the book “Me Llamo Celia: La vida de Celia Cruz

This bilingual book, written by Monica Brown and beautifully illustrated by Rafael López, tells the story of the life of Celia Cruz from her point of view. Its lyrical telling promises to "make you feel like dancing!" Winner of the Américas Book Award, the story brings home how important Celia Cruz's roots in her family, her language, and her country were to her as she rose into the salsa star that she became.

3. Experience the Joy of the Song, "La Vida Es Un Carnaval

Listen to one of Celia Cruz's best-known salsa numbers, “La Vida Es Un Carnival.” The joy in this song makes you believe Celia Cruz when she sings, “La vida es una hermosura, hay que vivirla.” "Life is beautiful, and you must live it.” If you have a baby or toddler, scoop them up and remember to keep the beat while singing, dancing, and playing with the rhythms and lyrics in this beautiful Spanish language song.

Music in Spanish for Babies and Toddlers

Here at Mi Casa Es Tu Casa®, we are in full swing with our bilingual music classes in our current collection, Alegría. And in the Spring we will begin a new session with our collection, Corazón. Come sing, dance, and experience Spanish music for families with babies and toddlers. Learn about our bilingual music classes for babies here.

¡Nos vemos alli!

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