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Celia Cruz makes history as the first Afro Latina to be on the U.S. quarter

LA Times logo LA Times 2/8/2023 Jonah Valdez
Celia Cruz in Los Angeles in 2002. The U.S. Mint is honoring "the Queen of Salsa" by placing her on the quarter. (Kevork Djansezian / Associated Press) © (Kevork Djansezian / Associated Press) Celia Cruz in Los Angeles in 2002. The U.S. Mint is honoring "the Queen of Salsa" by placing her on the quarter. (Kevork Djansezian / Associated Press)

Twenty years after her death, salsa queen Celia Cruz has made history and will become the first Afro Latina to grace the U.S. quarter.

The prolific Cuban American singer, whose career spanned seven decades, is an honoree as a part of the American Women Quarters Program, the U.S. Mint announced last week.

She will appear alongside honorees such as Patsy Takemoto Mink, the first woman of color to serve in Congress, and Zitkala-Ša, also known as Gertrude Simmons Bonnin, an artist who fought for Native American civil rights.

“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,” Ventris C. Gibson, director of the mint, said in a statement. “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."

Quarters with Cruz's design will be released into circulation mid-2023, the mint said.

Cruz, who was born in Havana, Cuba, and later moved to the U.S., recorded 70 albums and remained a dominant force in Latin music until her death in 2003 at 77. She won two Grammy awards and four Latin Grammys, along with a lifetime achievement Grammy, which she posthumously received in 2016.

She was known for her unique voice and her electric stage presence, often performing in sequined gowns and extravagant wigs. She'd often yell her trademark call, “Azúcar!

“That was a voice God gave to nobody else,” singer Rubén Blades told The Times after her death. “She was our Sarah Vaughan, our Ella Fitzgerald, our Pavarotti.”

The announcement of the Cruz quarter design drew praise from her fans, as well as Latinx celebrities, such as Latin Grammy-winning singer La India of Puerto Rico and Cuban Aymée Nuviola, a Grammy winner who is known for playing Cruz in the Colombian biographical telenovela "Celia."

Other previous American Women Quarters honorees include writer Maya Angelou and actor Anna May Wong.

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.


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