In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Celia Cruz

  • Introduction
  • Biographical Books
  • Encyclopedia References
  • Archives

Latino Studies Celia Cruz
Hermann Hudde
  • LAST MODIFIED: 23 May 2024
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199913701-0280


Celia Cruz (b. 1925–d. 2003) emblematizes one of the most remarkable artists of the second half of the twentieth century, enduring her place in Latin American music and the history of popular music worldwide. Growing up in Havana, Cuba, Cruz received accolades all through her teenage years for her abilities as a singer. In the last years of the 1940s, Cruz sang solo and with Las Mulatas de Fuego in radio stations, theaters, and cabarets, both within Cuba and abroad as part of the popular music circuit. In 1947–1948, Cruz—although a Catholic—recorded a 78-rpm recording for the Parnat label in Cuba, singing Santería chants accompanied by Batá drums and a Yoruba choir. In 1948, Cruz made her first recording abroad in Venezuela and joined the conjunto Sonora Matancera soon after. During the 1950s, this musical affiliation provided her with a solid platform to continue her artistic transformation. Nevertheless, the political climate in Cuba changed with the end of Fulgencio Batista’s authoritarian regime and the beginning of the Cuban Revolution regime in 1959. La Sonora Matancera’s tour of Mexico in 1960 led to the group’s decision to leave Cuba. Cruz’s music was immediately banned by the new autocratic regime and her reentry onto the island was prohibited. This experience changed “La Guarachera de Cuba,” who never fantasized about communism and whose life and music were defined by a love of freedom. Cruz worked in Mexico’s music and movie industries until she settled in the United States. Once in New York City, Cruz, who married fellow band member and boogaloo Pedro Knight in 1962, established a significant recording and performance collaborations with Tito Puente, and later with Willie Colón, Rubén Blades, Ray Barreto, Héctor Lavoe, and Johnny Pacheco, for the labels Tico, Fania, and Vaya. Aside from joining the Fania All-Stars, Cruz’s big break in the United States began with the album Celia & Johnny (1974), after which she grew into a celebrity musician—though always recognized for her humble personality, work ethic, and moral values. As a result, the “Queen of Salsa,” became a global icon in the world of popular music. With her famous “¡Azúcar!” and her musical art, Cruz impacted the salsa music scene and converted it into an international music genre. Over the course of her artistic path, Cruz—an Afro-Cuban woman who embraced and promoted Latinidad—constantly reinvented herself and adapted to new realities without losing sight of her artistic vision.

Biographical Books

Celia Cruz’s unique musicality and artistic persona have captured scholars and journalists’ attention. She contributed to shaping Latino and Latin American popular music and culture since her early days, and her life and career were marked by a multiplicity of experiences, interests, and subjectivities. Examining Cruz’s history means exploring the connections between different disciplines of knowledge and personalities that have modeled Latin American popular music. Biography, as a genre, portrays not only the story of biographical individuals, but also the historical and cultural nuances that shaped their decisions and actions. A biography is an investigation of people’s lives through the preservation of their testimonials that shed light on social, gender, and cultural history. Neither of these narratives should be seen as devoted only to scholars or specialized groups, but also as providing an overview of interdisciplinary themes correlated to Cruz. In Cruz and Reymundo 2004, the singer recounted her life in the first person and as a prominent artist. Cruz’s in-depth interviews demonstrate her artistic and personal selfhood and individuality. Márceles Daconte 2004 delivers an overview of Cruz’s biographical facts and musical collaborations, but it does not examine in depth how Cruz’s life events influenced her music, which could have added to the discussion a more complex aesthetic, intellectual, and political perspective. Focusing on Cruz’s life during this time and place in Cuba, Marquetti Torres 2022 offers a detailed analysis of Cruz’s early involvement in the Cuban music scene during the 1940s and 1950s and reveals her artistic agency and selfhood construction within a pre–Cuban Revolution regime era context. Rodriguez-Duarte 2004 provides an overview of Cruz’s visual image and the artist as a visual performer whose photographs are both aesthetic documents and mechanisms for Latinx self-representation. As one of the few female artists to lead the internationalization of salsa as a Pan-Latin, Pan-Caribbean, and Pan-African music genre because of the commercial expansion of its music industry, Cruz’s Colombia concerts are discussed in Valverde 1995. Using the interview method as one of the core structures for constructing the publication’s narrative, Moreno Velázquez 2009 delivers an overview of Cruz’s life experiences and subjectivities related to spaces, places, and people.

  • Cruz, Celia, and Ana Cristina Reymundo. Celia, My Life: An Autobiography. New York: Harper Collins, 2004.

    A series of conversations between Cruz and journalist Ana Cristina Reymundo led to this publication’s conception. From her early years in Cuba to her last years in the United States, the singer tells her own story in six chapters. A foreword by Maya Angelou and epilogues by Cruz’s husband, Pedro Knight, and her last manager, Omer Pardillo-Cid, are also included. Additionally, the book includes a list of Cruz’s discography, awards, and honors.

  • Márceles Daconte, Eduardo. ¡Azucar! The Celia Cruz Biography. New York: Reed Press, 2004.

    Several portions of this book are based on a conversation between Cruz and Eduardo Márceles Daconte. Her biographical monograph explores varied topics and professional collaborations with Ray Barreto and Tito Puente, the Latin music scene in New York prior to and during the salsa era. It also explores Afro-Cubanism as a symbol of national and cultural identity, Afro-Cuban music genres, and her roles in popular media, including films and TV shows.

  • Marquetti Torres, Rosa. Celia en Cuba (1925–1962): Los años de Celia Cruz en Cuba. Madrid: Desmemoriados, 2022.

    Marquetti Torres’s book presents a detailed narrative and chronological account of Celia Cruz’s early musical endeavors in Cuba and abroad. Primary sources include pictures, letters, documents, concert programs, and secondary sources. Marquetti Torres also describes Cruz’s recordings, songs, orchestras, and films. It provides a greater understanding of Cruz’s artistic persona during this era of her career.

  • Moreno Velázquez, Juan. La Reina es la Rumba: por siempre . . . Celia. Miami: Downtown Book Center, 2009.

    As part of the process of writing his book, journalist Juan Moreno Velázquez met and interviewed Celia Cruz. The book offers a sympathetic account of Cruz’s role as a Latin music cultural icon, along with accounts of her creativity and perseverance in the Latin American music industry. The monograph is written in an eloquent journalistic style mixed with Cruz’s comments in response to interviews.

  • Rodriguez-Duarte, Alexis. Presenting Celia Cruz. New York: Clarkson Potter, 2004.

    Cruz exhibited a strong visual image and presence as a popular culture symbol. Photographer Alexis Rodriguez-Duarte captured the artist’s moments wearing dresses that embodied her philosophical and musical strategy in living in a perpetual carnival that celebrates life despite the obstacles.

  • Valverde, Umberto. Reina Rumba Celia Cruz. Bogotá: Arango Editores, 1995.

    Colombian journalist Umberto Valverde tells Cruz’s story before leaving Cuba. In the book, Cruz shared anecdotes about her day-to-day life in Cuba with fellow musicians, family, and friends. Moreover, it describes Cruz’s tour across different Colombian cities as a solo artist and with Fania All-Stars. First published 1981.

back to top

Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content on this page. Please subscribe or login.

How to Subscribe

Oxford Bibliographies Online is available by subscription and perpetual access to institutions. For more information or to contact an Oxford Sales Representative click here.