By Sweet Sound of Sunrise

With 23 gold albums to her name and a Grammy under her belt, they don’t call the late, great Celia Cruz “la Reina de la Salsa” and “la Guarachera de Cuba” for nothing.

Born in Cuba in 1925 as the second of what would be fourteen children, Celia Cruz was pursuing her studies to become a Spanish teacher until a relative began bringing her to sing at cabarets. She broke onto the Cuban music scene in 1950 as the lead singer of the Sonora Matancera, a long-running Cuban music group that had already been playing for decades. She stayed with the band for 15 years, gaining fame throughout the country.

After the 1959 Revolution, she and her husband opted to live in the United States rather than return to Cuba. She toured extensively in Europe and Latin America in the 1980s before returning to the United States. There, she continued to perform and even won a Grammy Award for Best Tropical Latin Performance in 1990 for her partnership with Ray Barretto on the album “Ritmo en el Corazon.” She was nominated for several more Grammy Awards throughout the 1990s, and was even given the National Medal of Arts in 1994 by then-president Bill Clinton.

Successful right up until the end, Celia Cruz died of a brain tumor on July 16, 2003. Her coffin, sent to Miami, Florida to lie in state, was visited by 200,000 people before she was finally put to rest in New York City. Many cities around the world have memorials dedicated to her name.