Cuba’s Celia Cruz Honored by Google: Happy Birthday!

Celia Cruz con su Grammy

The Huffington Post’s Latino Voices column announced that “Web surfers woke up Monday to a sprinkling of azúcar.” Google celebrated what would have been Celia Cruz’s 88th birthday with a doodle [shown above] honoring the Cuban singer who rose to international stardom as one of the world’s greatest salsa singers. [Also see previous post A Google Doodle for Celia Cruz, The Queen of Salsa; for more on Celia, see Celia Cruz, Happy Birthday and Remembering Celia Cruz: Celia in My Heart.]

GoogleDoodle-1“There have been many posthumous tributes to Celia in these last ten years, but this one by Google is certainly one of the most important and far-reaching,” Omer Pardillo-Cid, sole executor of the Celia Cruz Estate, said in a press release. “She would have loved it!”

Born Úrsula Hilaria Celia de la Caridad Cruz Alfonso to a working-class family in Havana in 1925, Cruz took up singing as a child — an interest later encouraged by her aunt, who introduced her to the world of Cuba’s nightclubs, according to Billboard. A student of Cuba’s Conservatory of Music, Cruz’s career took off in 1950 when she joined La Sonora Matancera, one of Cuba’s most prominent dance orchestras.

The singer left the island while on tour with La Sonora Matancera in 1960, shortly after the Cuban Revolution, and never returned. The Cuban government refused to let her visit the island to attend her father’s funeral years later, according to The New York Times.

It was in the United States that Cruz would become an international icon and earn the moniker “The Queen of Salsa,” after launching a solo career with percussionist Tito Puente, and performing with the Fania All Stars in the 1970s. She became famous for her booming voice, energetic performances punctuated by her signature outbursts of “azúcar!” — Spanish for “sugar” — and her over-the-top dresses and wigs. “It’s as if the earth opened her mouth to talk and sing,” Marvette Perez, curator of Latino history and culture at the National Museum of American History in Washington, told NPR in 2005.

She continued cutting records and performing as a solo artists well into her seventies, including the award-winning “La Negra Tiene Tumbao” in 2001. By the time of her death at 77 two years later, she had raked in 10 Grammys, honorary doctorates from Yale and the University of Miami, and a Smithsonian Lifetime Achievement Award.

The doodle won plaudits from Celia’s dedicated fans, who took to Twitter to cheer the Internet mammoth’s artwork.

Listen to Celia Cruz and Tito Puente in “Quimbara” here:

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