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Peace via Cruz

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With a world being permeated with violence, negativity, and all things scandalous, having an escape such as music and dance is a God-send. Celia Cruz was that desideratum. Known as the “Queen of Salsa,” Cruz exemplified the concept of connecting the world through music, great music, well... that and some sugar! In her early fame, Cruz acquired the nickname “café con leche,” thus “¡Azúcar!” (sugar) became her - oh, so relevant - catch phrase. After spreading the sweetness for many years, though, Cruz’s phrase became a tad worn out, so having her audience’s best interest in mind, she went up on stage and said, “¡No les digo más ‘Azúcar,’ pa’ que no les dé diabetes!” and this literally translates, “I won’t say ‘Sugar’ anymore so I don’t give you diabetes!”

The thoughtful woman that Celia Cruz was, it was her initial dream to be a teacher, “just like [her] dad wanter [her] to be,” but as it appears, fate had a different career path in mind. Cruz was born in Cuba in October of 1925 and made her first advance toward success at 25 years of age in a distinguished Cuban orchestra. Mighty as her talent may be, her esteem was not instant, but the orchestra was loyal to their decision of adding their new asset, and Cruz’s fame grew tremendously around Cuba. She toured about Latin America, her powerful music resonating from country-to-country, until the infamous Fidel Castro assumed position as Cuba’s dictator in 1959. Intolerable of this notorious autocrat, Cruz and her husband, Pedro Knight, renounced their mother country and became citizens of the United States.

While residing in the US, Cruz had some trouble with gaining revenue as a part of Tico Records, but in due time Cruz’s fame was launched with her shifting to the Vaya records label and recording an album with pianist Larry Harlow, landing her a concert at New York’s one and only Carnegie Hall. From there, her fame continued to swell as she recorded and performed with other prominent musicians. Moreover, Cruz was presented with opportunities to tour in Europe and Latin America, being broadcasted over the radio, as well as being featured in Hollywood productions. After a lifetime’s hard work, her efforts were commended at last when Cruz won a Grammy Award for Best Tropical Latin Performance. Accomplishing this only motivated Celia Cruz to continue making her music and starring in movies, and was awarded with the National Medal of Arts by Bill Clinton in 1994. She continued down her road in stardom, overcoming any obstacles such as her weight problem and knee issues, though there was one road-block that got the best of her - cancer.

On July 16, 2003, Celia Cruz’s life was taken by a fatal brain tumor and she now resides in a mausoleum in the peaceful Woodlawn Cemetery. Nonetheless, her legacy lives on - her most recent album won a posthumous award at the Premios Lo Nuestro for the best Salsa release of the year. However, not only is her fame immortal by means of awards, but her music is also continuously listened to by people of all ages and ethnicities. And though Celia Cruz is not main stream she is one of the most influential people on Hispanic American culture for her persistence, determination, and a great deal of effort, ultimately earning herself a one-way ticket to fame. Even more so, she is a role model to all Americans in the sense that hard work will be rewarded. Finally, in the biggest picture of this essay, Cruz managed to exemplify connecting societies peacefully and lovingly through her Latin-flavored music and easy-going persona - she is truly the manifestation of Carlos Santana’s words from the wise, “The most valuable possession you can own is an open heart. The most powerful weapon you can be is an instrument of peace.”





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