Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Celebrating Celia Cruz and her decision to live and sing in freedom

How the Castro regime sought to censor and punish Celia Cruz for living in freedom

Celia Cruz: The Queen of Salsa
In just seven days on October 21st the world will observe the 90th anniversary of the birth in Havana, Cuba of Úrsula Hilaria Celia de la Caridad Cruz Alfonso better known as Celia Cruz. Last night Telemundo aired the first of an 80 part - novela of the life of the woman who would become known as the Queen of Salsa and "La Guarachera de Cuba". The first episode is available online. She is recognized around the world as an icon of music and in 2013 Google honored Celia on the 88th anniversary of her birth with a Google Doodle. In 2010 the United States Postal Service issued a postage stamp in her honor describing the Cuban artist as follows.
"A dazzling performer of many genres of Afro-Caribbean music, Celia Cruz (1925-2003) had a powerful contralto voice and a joyful, charismatic personality that endeared her to fans from different nationalities and across generations. Settling in the United States following the Cuban revolution, the “Queen of Salsa” performed for more than five decades and recorded more than 50 albums."  
However in Cuba the Castro regime continues to ban the music of Celia Cruz from the radio airwaves. She is not alone. There are other banned Cuban musicians of great importance. According to Shoot the singer!: music censorship today, a book edited by Marie Korpe states that there is increasing concern within the international music community that post-revolution generations are growing up without knowing or hearing these censored musicians and that this could lead to a loss of Cuban identity in future generations.The phrase cultural genocide is used to describe the "cultural revolution" of the 1960s and 1970s that blacklisted and censored scores of Cuban musicians and artists.

The above censorship is widely known, but not as well known is that when the mother of Celia Cruz was dying the Cuban musical icon was blocked by Fidel Castro from returning to Cuba to say goodbye to her mom or attend her funeral afterwards.  This practice still goes on today with Cuban dissidents in the diaspora barred arbitrarily from seeing their loved ones by the Castro regime.

Cuba under the Castros remains a totalitarian regime that has maintained a level of inflexibility that even 12 years after her death in 2003 and with relations "normalized" with the United States continues to censor the music of Celia Cruz. Women who think and speak freely in Cuba still suffer horrible consequences.

Hopefully that will soon change. In the meantime Celia's music and her legacy live on in Cuba on cassette tapes, CDs, DVDs, and USBs circulating in the Cuban underground.


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