Salsa diva Celia Cruz will make history as the first Afro-Latina to appear in a U.S. quarter, twenty years after her passing. The U.S. Mint announced last week that the famous Cuban American singer, whose career spanned seven decades, is an honoree as part of the American Women Quarters Program.
She will be recognized alongside honorees like Zitkala-a, also known as Gertrude Simmons Bonnin, an artist who battled for Native American civil rights, and Patsy Takemoto Mink, the first woman of color elected to Congress.
Ventris C. Gibson, director of the mint, said in a statement:
“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. 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.”
According to the mint, Cruz’s design for quarters will go into circulation in the middle of 2023. Cruz, who was born in Cuba’s capital city of Havana and subsequently emigrated to the United States, released 70 albums and was a major figure in Latin music until her passing at the age of 77 in 2003. She earned two Grammys, four Latin Grammys, and a lifetime achievement Grammy, which was presented to her after her passing in 2016.
She was renowned for her distinctive voice and electrifying stage presence, sometimes appearing in sequined outfits and lavish wigs. She frequently yelled her distinctive call, “Azcar!”
Singer Rubén Blades told The Times after her death:
“That was a voice God gave to nobody else. She was our Sarah Vaughan, our Ella Fitzgerald, our Pavarotti.”
Latinx celebrities including Puerto Rican singer La India, a recipient of a Latin Grammy, and Cuban Aymée Nuviola, a Grammy winner recognized for portraying Cruz in the Colombian biographical drama “Celia,” applauded the revelation of the Cruz quarter design.
Author Maya Angelou and performer Anna May Wong are two other past recipients of the American Women Quarters award.