Remembering Celia Cruz, Cuba’s Queen of Salsa, on the 19th anniversary of her death

This past weekend marked the 19th anniversary of Celia Cruz’s death. Notes from the Cuban Exile Quarter remembers the undisputed Queen of Salsa and sets the record straight on her history of supporting freedom in Cuba.

Remembering Celia Cruz 19 years after her passing, and setting the record straight on the Smithsonian’s omissions about her life

 Forgiving is not forgetting. Forgiving is remembering without pain.” – Celia Cruz

Úrsula Hilaria Celia de la Caridad Cruz Alfonso, better known as Celia Cruz, died 19 years ago on July 16, 2003, she was 77 years old, and across the world millions mourned her passing. Waves of grief were especially felt in Miami, Florida and Hoboken, New Jersey, both containing large Cuban exile communities.

I too mourned her passing, and grieved that she had never been able to return to her homeland because of a cruel and despotic dictatorship.

Although she was a resident of New Jersey Celia spent a lot of time in Miami, and I had seen her around town over the years, and when I graduated from FIU in 1992 she was awarded an honorary degree along with President George H.W. Bush.

Will never forget President Bush’s look of surprise when she grabbed him in a bear hug or how the crowd of students went wild when she shouted “Azucar” in the midst of the graduation ceremony. She had also received honorary degrees from Yale and the University of Miami.

Mourning for Celia was nearly universal, except in her homeland Cuba where official media printed a small note on her passing recognizing Celia as an “important Cuban performer who popularized our country’s music in the United States,” it went on to say that “during the last four decades, she was systematically active in campaigns against the Cuban revolution generated in the United States.”

Sadly, the reason for the Castro regime’s hostility towards Celia Cruz, her refusal to bow to Fidel Castro, her legacy defending freedom of expression, and the high price she paid is absent from a March 5, 2020 video by the Smithsonian Institution titled “Why Is Celia Cruz Called the Queen of Salsa? #BecauseOfHerStory.”

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