Úrsula Hilaria Celia de la Caridad Cruz Alfonso, known as Celia Cruz, was a Cuban singer and one of the most popular Latin artists of the 20th century. Cruz rose to fame in Cuba during the 1950s as a singer of guarachas, earning the nickname "La Guarachera de Cuba".
Her musical legacy is made up of a total of 37 studio albums, as well as numerous live albums and collaborations. Throughout her career, she was awarded numerous prizes and distinctions, including two Grammy Awards and three Latin Grammy Awards. In addition to her prolific career in music, Cruz also made several appearances as an actress in movies and telenovelas.
By doing this lesson you’ll learn the story behind Celia’s trademark catchphrase ¡Azúcar!, but do you know why sugar is so important to Cubans? Cuba has traditionally been referred to as “the sugar bowl of the world” and this crop is at the heart of its economy and political history. Until recently, it was the world’s largest exporter of sugar cane. There is even a famous saying in Cuba which goes “sin azúcar no hay país”, which means “without sugar there is no country”, which goes some way to helping you understand Cuba’s dependence on the crop.
Five facts about Celia Cruz
Celia was strongly influenced in early childhood by Yoruba songs, which were associated with the West African religion known in Cuba as Santería.
Her father wasn’t always on board with her becoming a singer - he wanted her to become a teacher, but her aunt used to take her to cabarets to perform against his wishes. He worried that people would look down on her if she became a singer.
Cruz’s first ever recordings were actually produced in 1948 in Venezuela - not Cuba! To give you some perspective, La negra tiene tumbao was released in 2001... over half a century later!.
Celia left Cuba in the early 1960s with her band La Sonora Matancera and all but one member refused to go back to the country while it was under Fidel Castro’s communist regime. In retaliation Castro issued a lifetime ban. She tried to return in 1962 for her mother’s funeral, but was denied entry.
In 2004 Celia recorded her 70th and final album, Regalo de alma, while undergoing cancer treatment. She was laid to rest in The Bronx, New York. Her husband Pedro Knight was laid to rest beside her in 2007.
LESSON La negra tiene tumbao
Celia’s sassy song, La negra tiene tumbao, proudly celebrates her Afro-Latinx identity and desire to live life to the full. This fun lesson is going to make you want to dance and you’ll practice using impersonal verbs such as ‘se dice’ and ‘se corre’. If you don’t know what it means to have ‘tumbao’ you certainly will by the end of the lesson!