Celia Cruz will become the first Afro-Latina minted on the U.S. quarter
For her impact on Latin music internationally, Cruz will be minted on the U.S. quarter as a part of the U.S. Mint’s American Women Quarters Program.
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To recognize the impact women have had over the course of U.S. history, the U.S. Mint is creating uniquely minted quarters depicting influential women from a variety of backgrounds and success stories. The program is running from 2022 to 2025.
This year, the first Afro-Latina will be minted on the quarter in Celia Cruz, the Cuban salsa singer and one of the most prolific Latina musicians of the 20th century.
“All of the women being honored have lived remarkable and multi-faceted lives, and have made a significant impact on our Nation in their own unique way,” said U.S. Mint Director Ventris C. Gibson in a news release.
“The women pioneered change during their lifetimes, not yielding to the status quo imparted during their lives. By honoring these pioneering women, the Mint continues to connect America through coins which are like small works of art in your pocket,” she continued.
Cruz held an illustrious career, recognized as one of the most celebrated Latin music artists. She has been awarded 23 gold albums, three Grammy Awards, four Latin Grammy Awards, and the President's National Medal of Arts. Additionally, she was awarded a posthumous Lifetime Achievement Award at the 2016 Grammys.
Born in Havana, Cuba in 1925 under the name Úrsula Hilaria Celia de la Caridad Cruz Alfonso de la Santísima Trinidad, Cruz grew up in the working-class neighborhood of Santos Suárez, where she was exposed to numerous musicians and performers of diverse backgrounds, an experience that would influence her future career in music.
Cruz's early work began with performances broadcast over local radio stations, with her first track recorded in Venezuela in 1948.
She would go on to become the lead singer for Sonora Matancera, an Afro-Cuban orchestra considered to have been Cuba’s most popular. As Cruz's career continued, she would become known for singing guarachas, a style of Cuban music with rapid tempo and picaresque or comic lyrics.
It was during this time that she would adopt her trademark shout, "¡Azúcar!" using it as an interjection in songs and performances and as a type of battle cry in remembrance of Africans who had been enslaved on Cuban sugar plantations.
While on tour in Mexico in 1960, La Sonora Matancera would renounce Fidel Catro's rulership over Cuba, resulting in their exile; something Cruz would not be made aware of until 1962 when she sought to return to Cuba to attend her mother's funeral, a request that was denied.
With an evolving style, Cruz performed not only salsa, but rumba, reggaeton, and even starred in films.
Over her career, she would record over 80 albums, earning her first Grammy in 1990, and be recognized as one of the leading influencers that brought salsa to international prominence.
Though she passed away in 2003, Cruz’s legacy lives on through her music as the quarter seeks to immortalize her legacy in coinage.
Cruz will join the numerous accomplished women that shaped history, being recognized alongside women such as New Mexican suffragette Nina Otero-Warren and Asian American actress Anna May Wong.
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