Full Name: Ursula Hilaria Celia de la Caridad Cruz Alfonso
Birth Date: 1925-10-21
Birth Place: Havana, Cuba
Celia Cruz (born in Havana, Cuba as Úrsula Hilaria Celia de la Caridad Cruz Alfonso on October 21, 1925 – July 16, 2003) was a Cuban salsa singer, and was one of the most successful Salsa performers of the 20th century, with twenty-three gold albums to her name. She was renowned internationally as the "Queen of Salsa" as well as "La Guarachera de Cuba". She spent most of her career living in New Jersey, and working in the United States and several Latin American countries. Celia Cobo of Billboard Magazine once said "Cruz is indisputably the best known and most influential female figure in the history of Cuban music." Cruz once said in an interview "If I had a chance I wouldn't have been singing and dancing, I would be a teacher just like my dad wanted me to be".
Cruz was born in the diverse Santos Suárez neighborhood of La Habana, Cuba. She is the second child of fourteen children born to Catalina Alfonso and Simón Cruz. Simón worked in the railroads as a stoker, and Catalina took care of the extended family. While growing up in Cuba's diverse 1930s musical climate, Cruz listened to many musicians that later influenced her adult career, such as Paulina Alvarez, Fernando Collazo, Abelardo Barroso, Pablo Quevedo, Arsenio Rodriguez, and Arcaño y sus Maravillas. Celia Cruz also studied the words to Yoruba songs with colleague Mercedita Valdes (an Akpwon santeria singer) from Cuba and Celia made various recordings of this religious genre singing even back up for other female akpwons like Candita Batista. When she was a teenager, her aunt took her and her cousin to cabarets to sing, but her father encouraged her to keep attending school, in hopes that she would become a Spanish language teacher. However, one of her teachers told her that as an entertainer she could earn in one day what most Cuban teachers earned in a month. Cruz began singing in Havana's radio station Radio Garcia-Serra's popular "Hora del Té" daily broadcast, she sang the tango "Nostalgias", (and won a cake as first place) often winning cakes and also opportunities to participate in more contests. Her first recordings were made in 1948 in Venezuela. Before that, Cruz had recorded for radio stations.
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