Forever Celia: Celebrating a Cuban Woman who shaped Miami and generations of Cubans
Celebrating the life and music of Celia Cruz
GenXers growing up in Miami remember Celia. She was everywhere: on the radio, on Sesame Street, in the movies, in advertisements, and often times at the table next door in Versailles or at Our Lady of Charity. In 2016 The Miami New Times listed her as one of the “ten Cubans who shaped Miami.”
She was in such iconic films as The Mambo Kings and at the same time played roles in films that highlighted the plight of Cuban political prisoners, such as the 1991 film, Fires Within.
When Celia passed away in 2003, Cuban Miami grieved. It felt as if a close family member had been taken away from us. Billboard described the scene on July 21, 2003.
Tens of thousands of mourners lined the streets of Miami on Saturday to pay their respects to salsa legend and Cuban exile Celia Cruz, weeping at her casket but also celebrating her music and shouting her trademark phrase, “Azucar!”
On the anniversary of her passing a special Mass was held for her in Miami at Our Lady of Charity, a sacred shrine for the Cuban diaspora.
Fifteen years after her passing, her life and music are being celebrated in Miami at the The American Museum of the Cuban Diaspora from October 20, 2018 through March 31, 2019 in an exhibit titled: “Forever Celia.”
Castroism’s cultural war against Celia
Celia Cruz was and remains a nonperson in Cuba. Celia Cobo of Billboard Magazine once said “Cruz is indisputably the best known and most influential female figure in the history of Cuban music.” The impact of the Castro regime on music in Cuba goes beyond jailing musicians and includes systematic censorship that threatens the island’s musical legacy as has been the case with the Queen of Salsa.
According to the 2004 book Shoot the singer!: music censorship today edited by Marie Korpe there is increasing concern that post-revolution generations in Cuba are growing up without knowing or hearing censored musicians such as Celia Cruz and Olga Guillot and that this could lead to a loss of Cuban identity in future generations. This process has been described as a Cuban cultural genocide that is depriving generations of Cubans of their heritage.
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