Who Was Celia Cruz?

Who Was Celia Cruz?
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Release Date
August 04, 2020
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How did a working-class girl from Cuba become a symbol of artistic freedom for Cuban Americans and the "Queen of Salsa"? Find out in this addition to the Who HQ library!

Although her family and friends know her as Úrsula Hilaria Celia de la Caridad Cruz Alfonso, the world refers to her simply as Celia Cruz. Starting her career in 1950, Celia grew increasingly popular as the new lead singer of the Cuban band Sonora Matancera. Her exceptional vocal range and flashy costumes made fans fall in love with her.

Celia's talent took her all around the world, including the United States. After Fidel Castro came to power in Cuba, she wasn't allowed to return to her native country. She and other Cubans who were exiled used their music to express their love for their homeland.

Celia rose to the top of the charts in a genre that was dominated by men. She become an award-winning singer and the most popular Latin artist of the twentieth century. Azucar! indeed!

Editor review

1 review
The Queen of Salsa Music
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Learning Value
Born to a poor family in Cuba in 1925, Cruz was surrounded by the love and support of her Afrocuban family, who made sure that she had everything she needed. Interested in singing from a young age, she sang lullabies at home and eventually entered contests and sang in public. She went to school to become a teacher, but after she finished college, found work touring with a variety of bands. During the tumultuous time when Castro was cementing his power in the 1960s, Cruz went to Mexico City on tour with a band, and was informed by the leader that they would not be returning to Cuba. Devastated because of the ill health of her parents, Cruz wanted to return, but her mother told her not to. She continued to work in the music industry for years, collaborating with young people like Gloria Estefan and the Miami Sound Machine in the 1990s. She was married to band leader Tito Puente, and completed 76 albums before her death in 2003.
Good Points
I had never heard of Celia Cruz and am not familiar with her music, but her story of perseverance and resilience is one that young readers will find inspiring. One of my frequent complaints is that there are 100 different biographies on some people, like Frida Kahlo, when it would be far more interesting to read biographies about less covered individuals. This is a great example of an influential and accomplished person who hasn't been written about very much. I only saw three other books on Cruz when I checked my library supplier's catalog.

The who was series makes biographies accessible, and the somewhat silly covers (the big heads on the little bodies) appeal to readers, who ask for the books by that description! The books are a good length (about 100 pages), have appealing line illustrations, and include a timelines at the back of both the individual's life and world events, which is very helpful.

Reading biographies is a great way to learn about history, so hand this WhoHG book from Penguin Workshop to readers who can't get enough of the Vegara Little People, Big Dreams, Meltzer's Ordinary People Change the World, or Clinton's She Persisted biography series
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