Úrsula Hilaria Celia de la Caridad Cruz Alfonso (21 October 1925 – 16 July 2003), known as Celia Cruz, was a Cuban-American 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". In the following decades, she became known internationally as the "Queen of Salsa" due to her contributions to Latin music in the United States.
She began her career in her native Cuba, earning recognition as a vocalist of the popular musical group Sonora Matancera, a musical association that lasted fifteen years (1950-1965). Cruz mastered a wide variety of Afro-Cuban music styles including guaracha, rumba, afro, son and bolero, recording numerous singles in these styles for Seeco Records.
In 1960, after the Cuban Revolution caused the nationalization of the music industry, Cruz left her native country, becoming one of the symbols and spokespersons of the Cuban community in exile. Cruz continued her career, first in Mexico, and then in the United States, the country that she took as her definitive residence. In the 1960s, she collaborated with Tito Puente, recording her signature tune "Bemba colorá".
In the 1970s, she signed for Fania Records and became strongly associated with the salsa genre, releasing hits such as "Quimbara". She often appeared live with Fania All-Stars and collaborated with Johnny Pacheco and Willie Colón. During the last years of her career, Cruz continued to release successful songs such as "La vida es un carnaval" and "La negra tiene tumbao".
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. Her catchphrase "¡Azúcar!" ("Sugar!") has become one of the most recognizable symbols of salsa music.