Celia: My Life


For most Latinos under seventy, there has never been a time without Celia Cruz. Her career has spanned three generations and each one harbors memories of Celia's music. So deeply is she rooted into the collective Latin consciousness that her songs can be used as benchmarks to recall specific moments in one's's life.

After her recent death, nearly half a million people stood in line for hours, filed past her casket, and paid their respects in Miami and New York. Only a beloved ...

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For most Latinos under seventy, there has never been a time without Celia Cruz. Her career has spanned three generations and each one harbors memories of Celia's music. So deeply is she rooted into the collective Latin consciousness that her songs can be used as benchmarks to recall specific moments in one's's life.

After her recent death, nearly half a million people stood in line for hours, filed past her casket, and paid their respects in Miami and New York. Only a beloved queen has this kind of power to summon the masses on such a grand scale. Yet, this was only a sampling of her loyal public. All over the world there were mourners that could not attend, but anxiously followed the details on live television. Networks preempted their regular programming to bring the pageantry to the millions of adoring fans that could only be comforted by following the event as it unfolded on their TV screen. There were hours of retrospectives and tributes and even reruns of many previously televised interviews. People wanted to know more about her. They still do.

Celia was a woman of contrasts. She lived comfortably at the intersection of this contradiction. Her flamboyant costumes juxtaposed her simple and straightforward demeanor. She was open and accessible to her fans but staunchly private in her personal life. She was uninhibited without decadence; honest without offense; confident but not arrogant; and generous without fault. Her speech was simple but eloquent. One could easily miss the truth that floated in the spaces between her words. But above all, Celia was authentic and it was this authenticity that resonated so deeply with her public. They trusted her completely, even if they did not know her fully. Celia Cruz represents the pinnacle of what can be achieved with talent, hard work, faith and, most of all, guts.

The soul of Celia Cruz has remained her private domain all these remarkable years. Until now. Her rich, full life produced an extraordinary cache of archival information. Never-before-published personal pictures, notes, mementos, personal videos of Celia and Pedro touring the world and, at home and with family are but a part of what she has left us to tell her story.

This book is her story.

Based on well over 500 hours of taped interviews recorded just months before her death, this authorized, posthumous memoir will included never before told personal anecdotes, and photographs of the Queen of Salsa's extraordinary life.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
"How did a little black girl from Santos Suarez [a poor, working-class Havana neighborhood] come so far?" asks Cruz. One answer: "Only God knows why I've been so fortunate." Another explanation-that Cruz's success derived from her inimitable vocal style, passion for Cuba and its music, and her desire to keep expanding her oeuvre by recording with new artists and embracing all types of Cuban music (rumba, cha-cha, mambo, etc.)-is less a focal point of this book, but emerges nonetheless as the reason for her eventual status as "a cross-cultural, cross-generational phenomenon," according to People magazine. Cruz (1925-2003) recollects performances with many of the world's greatest musicians, including touring with the famous Sonora Matancera Orchestra and bringing salsa music to the U.S., South America, Asia and Europe. Although Cruz prefers to reminisce about her fabulous life rather than explain her connection to the music that came to define her, her autobiography, conversational in tone, neatly tells the story of a woman who bravely left her beloved homeland for a better life-and wound up bettering the lives of many others with her powerful music. Photos. (July) Forecast: This volume will no doubt reach her many, many fans, and the Celia Cruz Foundation has prepared a long list of celebrities who will be promoting the book. Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Posthumous but authorized, this memoir is drawn from more than 500 hours of taped video interviews and ties into the official one-year anniversary tribute following Cruz's death. Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780060725556
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 7/5/2005
  • Pages: 304
  • Product dimensions: 5.80 (w) x 8.60 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Ana Cristina Reymundo has been the Editorial Director of Nexos magazine since 1998. She has been the recipient of numerous awards, including Hispanic Media’s 100’s list of Top 100 US Hispanic journalists. She lives in Hurst, Texas.

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First Chapter

My Life

Chapter One

Mother Cuba

I always said I never wanted to write an autobiography. I always dreamed to have a movie made about my life, but I never imagined a book. Yet here we are. So what finally convinced me to write my story? I realized that when I'm gone, there will be those who'll say, "Celia was like this," and others who'll dispute that and say, "No, she wasn't like that at all, she was more like this ... "

Everyone is entitled to an opinion, but I decided to tell my story in my own words, so no one could ever dispute the true facts about my life. Who better to tell my story than the woman who actually lived it, right?

This book is a collection of my own opinions, memories, points of view, and feelings. Wherever my recollections may differ with those of others, I just want to remind readers that every individual sees things his or her own way. Interpretation is a funny business.This book and these memories are all mine.

My name is Úrsula Hilaria Celia Caridad Cruz Alfonso. I am the daughter of Catalina Alfonso, whom everyone knew as "Ollita," and Simón Cruz. I was born in Havana, Cuba, in a little house located at 47 Serrano Street, in the poorer section of a working-class neighborhood of different races and ethnicities called Santos Suárez. Since Cuba has undergone terrible changes since I left, and I have never stepped foot on the island since I became an exile, I don't know if the little house I once lived in exists anymore, or if it does, it still looks anything like I remember it.

I'll never reveal the actual year I was born. By no means do I claim to be younger than I am, but I won't ever divulge my age. Whoever wishes to know how old I am will have to wait. I'm sure when the time comes, the funeral home will make that public. But I'll never tell. Everyone will simply have to keep on guessing.

My birth was marked with drama. It was a major event for my aunt Ana Alfonso. "Tía Ana," as everyone called her. Tía Ana and my mother shared a deep love for each other.When my mother was pregnant with me, Tía Ana's newborn daughter had just died. The death of her newborn daughter scarred her so deeply that she never had another child -- of her own, anyway.

My mother, Ollita, was in Havana when Tía Ana's little girl died. Since Tía Ana lived some two hundred miles west, in the city of Pinar del Río, my mother -- who was then pregnant with me -- traveled all the way to Pinar del Río to console her. When Ollita finally arrived at Tía Ana and Uncle Panchito's house, she found her sister holding her dead daughter in her arms. Tía Ana was surrounded by other women, pleading dramatically with her to let her dead baby go. She refused. Ollita approached her sister and, after kissing her tenderly, calmed her down until Tía Ana finally agreed to let go of her daughter. My mother convinced Tía Ana to resign herself to fate.

Given that Tía Ana was heartbroken, my mother said to her, "Ana, when a child dies at birth, or if it's born dead, that means that its soul will return.You have to leave a mark on that little child so you'll recognize her when she's reborn. She's sure to come back to us." I don't think my mother realized how much to heart Tía Ana would take her words.

They prepared the dead baby girl for her wake and began to pray. Apparently,Tía Ana wouldn't cry: she stared at the coffin in silence. Without saying a word, my mother told me that Tía Ana got up, walked toward her dead daughter, hunched over the casket, and began to whisper into her ear. My mother said that she whispered, "I know one day you'll come back, and I'll be waiting for you. I'm going to mark you so I can recognize you when you return to me." And with that, Tía Ana grabbed the dead baby's pinkie fingers and pulled them back so hard toward her thumbs that they broke. Everyone in the room gasped.

My mother, who was sitting close to the coffin, told me that she was so stunned by what her sister had done that she felt as though someone had punched her in the chest. She lost her breath and almost fainted the second she heard those fingers break. Later she told me that the instant those fingers were broken, she felt me jump inside her womb. The other ladies at the wake ran toward my mother, giving her water and calming her by fanning her face with fans made of straw. The following day, my little cousin was given an appropriate Catholic burial, and afterward my mother stayed with Tía Ana for several days before returning to Havana.

A few months later, on a cool afternoon, my mother was sitting on the porch of our house in Santos Suárez, singing, as was her custom. Suddenly, a strong breeze began to blow. Ollita told me she felt so cold, she began to rub her arms with her hands, and just when she was about to get up and get a shawl to warm herself, she heard a voice whisper my name in her ear. From that moment on,my mother knew I was going to be a girl and that my name would be Celia Caridad.

There are only two seasons in my beloved Cuba, the dry season and the wet one, and both are equally warm. At the end of October, the pounding rains let up a bit. Nonetheless, it's then that everyone begins to prepare for the impending damp heat. I decided to enter the world on one of those warm days, surrounded by song and prayer.

Because she felt so heavy, Ollita couldn't help but stare at her belly all day long. With all the black beans and white rice that we ate in Cuba, newborns tended to be quite big ...

My Life
. Copyright © by Celia Cruz. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 21, 2005

    I love Celia!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    This is the best book I have ever read. I love Celia Cruz and miss her dearly This book taught me sooooooooo much about her

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 27, 2004


    wonderfully written portraying the esencia de una woman.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 20, 2004


    i am a big celia fan. this book made me cry. i enjoyed this book so much i read it until the end with out taking a break.i know celia is in heaven.

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