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Celia Cruz in New York’s intimate geometry

New York took to the streets to say goodbye to her when she died, on the age of 76. The photos from that day are memorable. 1000’s of individuals on street corners paid tribute to Celia Cruz and escorted the procession to the funeral home. The town still remembers how dozens of admirers of “The Queen” sang and danced to her songs before her stays were buried in Woodlawn Cemetery, within the Bronx, New York County, during a personal ceremony.

Today in the identical neighborhood where “The Queen” rests, a street was named after her. To say that with this symbolic tribute Celia returns to considered one of the cities that saw how she devoted herself to it might be to not honor her memory, because she actually never left that city. Her work and her legacy are a part of New York’s most deeply rooted Latino heritage, where you’ll be able to usually hearken to her music and bump into any passerby who, after realizing that one is Cuban, immediately mentions her name.

The ceremony had the attributes that sustain the rapturous force of her music. The afternoon was a celebration that rested on the enjoyment and jubilation of the attendees, amongst whom were admirers, friends and other people very near her profession. Omer Pardillo Cid, Celia’s executor, has been considered one of the principal architects that today has led to a street within the Bronx to be recognized by the name of Celia Cruz.

Omer Pardillo Cid (left) on the Celia Cruz Way naming ceremony in New York. Photo: courtesy of Omer.

“Celia’s memory has never left this city because her music sounds every day in any corner of the Iron Babel; what she sowed here together with her music was a lot that it’s everlasting. There was no Celia Cruz without her New York and no New York without Celia. Each time she landed at JFK airport from her long tours of the world she would say: ‘Thanks GOD for bringing us to Casa NY.’”

Omer explains how the method was that culminated on this new tribute to “The Queen”: “A petition is made and is explained to a commission that directs the department of parks and streets after which it goes to the commission they usually approve it. In fact, it must be someone who’s relevant to town and has done charitable things in favor of the people, which Celia all the time did.”

Celia Cruz Way in New York. Photo: courtesy of Omer Pardillo Cid.

Celia’s work is predicated on the roots of Cuban music but has been taken as a reference by Latin culture. It shouldn’t be surprising then that it’s considered one of the good symbols for artists within the region and one of the crucial vital references within the history of popular music.

Omer, who was by Celia’s side for a long time, explains that on this tribute people also got here out to defend the enjoyment that her music radiates. “Those attending the event welcomed this moment with great joy. The everlasting joy that Celia all the time radiated to each Latino who feels that she is an element of their triumphs on this city might be felt.”

His words are widely supported by that diligent reality that has seen the permanence of the Cuban legacy, not only in New York, but in other American cities. About three years ago I remember getting on a bus near the United Nations headquarters and from there you might savor her music. I exchanged just a few words with the individuals who listened to the melody they usually confirmed that they were born in New York, that they didn’t understand anything of what Celia sang, but that her voice and her barrage of rhythms entered their body with a contagious force. On the partitions of the neighborhoods with a Latino majority, you might also see, next to the graffiti, images with the singer’s face and together with her war phrase: “Azúcarrr.”

“One in all the traits that the majority all the time marked Celia is that on this city there are all nationalities and everybody lives in harmony and mutual respect for other cultures. NY may be very cosmopolitan and he or she loved that,” says Omer to OnCuba, while he waits for a flight to Los Angeles.

Students from the Celia Cruz School. Photo: courtesy of Omer Pardillo Cid.

Celia Cruz left Cuba for Mexico in 1960 with La Sonora Matancera. She later settled in the US and was never in a position to return to the island, where her songs, despite censorship, have historically been heard at parties or family celebrations. Her life was filled with milestones which can be directly related to the best summits of Latin and universal music. The concert she gave in Zaire with the Fania All Stars orchestra before the fight between boxers Muhammad Ali and George Foreman, in 1974, was considered one of those moments during which Celia not only put the name of Cuba within the intimate geometry of the world; but in addition that of Latin culture.

Omer remembers that New York welcomed Celia ceaselessly in November 1960. “From that moment on she made NY her home and her music was a part of the sound of this city, so today she is eternally here with a street that bears her name.”

Michel Hernández

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