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“Queen of Salsa” first Afro-Caribbean in the US Quarter

“Queen of Salsa” first Afro-Caribbean in the US Quarter

The Queen of Salsa will soon be honored with a quarter of her own. Cuban-American icon Celia Cruz appears on new coins for 2024, the US Mint announced last week.

The late singer will be the first Afro-Caribbean woman to show up in the US neighborhood, multiple news outlets reported.

Cruz was one of the most famous artists of the 20th century. Her work “captured the unique vibrancy and magic of Latin music and won the hearts of millions around the world,” writes the Celia Cruz Legacy Project Archive and Research Center.

Over the course of her decades-long career, Cruz has received 23 gold records, three Grammy Awards, four Latin Grammy Awards and the President’s National Medal of Arts, according to the Smithsonian. Along with her long list of other accolades, Cruz was also honored with a posthumous Lifetime Achievement Award at the 2016 Grammys.

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The US Mint honors Cruz through the American Women Quarters Program, which includes coins featuring designs created to honor the legacy and diverse accomplishments of American women throughout history. The program, which began in 2022 and will continue through 2025, issues five quarters each year.

Besides Cruz, the other 2024 award winners are:

  • Patsy Takemoto Mink, the first woman of color in Congress;
  • dr Mary Edwards Walker, a Civil War-era surgeon and abolitionist;
  • Pauli Murray, lawyer, activist and episcopal priest;
  • Zitkala-Ša, also known as Gertrude Simmons Bonnin, is a writer and Native American rights activist.

“All honored women have lived remarkable and diverse lives and made a significant impact on our nation in their own unique ways,” Ventris C. Gibson, director of the U.S. Mint, said in a statement. “By honoring these pioneering women, the Mint continues to connect America through coins that are like works of art in your pocket.”

Drafts for the 2024 American Women’s Quarters are scheduled for release in mid-2023, the US Mint said.

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As the Smithsonian and Cruz biography details, Cruz was born in Havana in 1925. She began singing in the 1940s and in 1950 became the leading singer of the popular Cuban orchestra La Sonora Matancera. After the Cuban Revolution, Cruz emigrated to the United States – later working with Tito Puente, Johnny Pacheco, the Fania All Stars and others.

“She thrived despite being in a mostly male artist genre,” notes the Smithsonian, noting how Cruz helped shape the salsa music we know today.

Throughout her decade-long career, Cruz helped bring Afro-Cuban music to the world stage and became a popular icon with an enduring legacy. She died in 2003 at the age of 77.

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