Celia Cruz to be honored with U.S. currency
The Queen of Salsa will be the first Afro-Latina to appear on the American Quarters Program.
The face of the legendary Celia Cruz will appear on a 25-cent coin, the U.S. Mint said.
The late Cuban star, known as the Queen of Salsa, was chosen along with four other exemplary women in history to appear in the new commemorative Quarter as part of the American Women Quarters Program in 2024. The popular singer will also make history as the first Afro-Latina to appear on a coin.
Remembered for her lively expression “Azucar!” Celia Cruz is considered a cultural icon and one of the most influential singers of all time, with almost 40 albums recorded.
The other four honorees are Patsy Takemoto Mink, the first woman of color to hold a seat in Congress; Dr. Mary Edwards Walker, a Civil War era women’s rights advocate and surgeon; poet, activist, and lawyer Pauli Murray; and Native American writer, composer and educator Zitkala-Ša. The program, created in 2022 as a four-year initiative, “celebrates the achievements and contributions of America’s women,” the official website states.
From joining the Sonora Matancera in the early 50s until her death in 2003 from cancer, Celia Cruz was one of the most fascinating performers in Latin music. Her overflowing presence on stage, coupled with her charisma, made her a legend in Latin America and beyond.
In the 1970s, she became one of the leading figures of salsa and joined the Fania All Stars, alongside Johnny Pacheco, Willie Colón, Tito Puente, and other icons of the same genre, a cultural phenomenon born in New York. She later explored other tropical rhythms such as mambo and merengue. Some of her most memorable hits are “La vida es un carnaval,” “La negra tiene tumbao,” and “Químbara.”
She never lip synched. When asked during television appearances to do so, she refused and always sang live.
The artist also influenced many of today’s stars, such as Ivy Queen, who has said she has long idolized and emulated her. “I have never thought about retiring. I’m healthy, I’m rolling,” the reggaeton pioneer once told Billboard. “I remember Celia Cruz. In her last performance at the Lo Nuestro Awards, she had cancer. She walked from her chair to the stage, sang and... sang! That’s what I do... She did it, I’m going to do it.”
Celia Cruz’s last album, 2003’s Regalo del Alma, spent three weeks at No. 1 on Billboard’s Top Latin Albums chart. Although she passed away two decades ago, her eternal legacy continues to appear in various corners of pop culture. Last year, her estate partnered with Archetype-IO to launch her first collection of NFTs, which debuted at Art Basel 2022. In 2016, an 80-part series about her life, Telemundo’s Celia, also aired on services such as Netflix and Apple TV+.
Between 2022 and 2025, the U.S. Mint will issue new 25-cent coins with new designs on the reverse every year, while George Washington’s image will remain at the forefront. This year honors Bessie Colemen, Edith Kanaka’ole, Eleanor Roosevelt, Jovita Idar, and Maria Tallchief.