Today’s ¡Mira Look! highlights a vibrant, upbeat, exciting look at the world famous Cuban Salsa Queen Celia Cruz. Never heard of her? Name ring a clave but you’re not sure why? Don’t think your students know enough about the impact of Latino-Americans on music, dance, history and culture? Well get ready to learn about one of Cuba’s most famous emigrants and one of the most important women in music history.
From the official Celia Cruz web site, “For more than half a century, the Queen of Salsa carried her title with class and distinction. Her powerful voice and electrifying rhythm garnered more than 100 worldwide recognitions, multiple platinum and gold records, three GRAMMY® awards and four Latin GRAMMY® awards, as well as a star on Hollywood’s Walk of Fame. Her boundless enthusiasm, genuine warmth, and deep-seated humanitarianism made Celia Cruz the music industry’s most accomplished and revered performer.”
My Name is Celia Cruz/Me Llamo Celia Cruz is a gorgeously lush bilingual picture book who’s pages are dripping with vibrancy, color and life. Written by Monica Brown and illustrated by Raphael Lopez, this Pura Belpré Honor Book and Américas Award winner is sure to transport your classroom to the countryside of Cuba where young Celia Cruz is encouraged to share her strong voice, love of music and dance, and kind spirit with Cuba and the world. Brown’s bilingual text is easy to follow in English for 2-4th graders, and the Spanish text might A) already be familiar to a number of students in your classroom (maybe they’ll help you read it out loud!); or B) is easy and exciting enough to read to your classroom even if they aren’t all bilingual. For example, take this descriptive moment, “My costumes are as colorful as my music, with ruffles, beads, sparkles and feathers. They shimmer and shake as I move my graceful arms and legs to the beat of the tropics and the rhythm of my heart.”
Lest you think this is simply a frivolous book about music and dance (a thought that would pierce my heart, for dance and music hold deeply embedded meanings in every culture across the globe), remember that Celia Cruz grew up in Cuba during the 1930s-1950s and was performing around Latin America and in Miami when Fidel Castro assumed control of Cuba. Celia and her husband did not think the political climate in Cuba was right for them and they refused to return to Cuba, eventually settling in New Jersey. History lesson of the Cuban Revolution and the emigration of thousands of Cubans to the US before and directly after Castro, anyone? She always presented herself as a bastion for women, Latina or not, taking control of their own lives and destiny while presenting themselves in a culturally sensitive and honorific way. Furthermore, she was a figure in the US at a time of great turmoil for African-Americans, political dissidents and immigrants. The 1960s/70s represented a time of opening, an awakening for numerous enclaves of American society; Celia represented one of the largest of these enclaves: the Cuban-American population. Socio-cultural or women’s studies, anyone? Black History Month lesson perhaps? Finally, she is by far the most famous Cuban-American singer (yes, even more so than Gloria Estefan), responsible in a large part for bringing Salsa and popularizing the culture that goes with it, to the US.
My Name Is Celia Cruz/Me Llamo Celia Cruz is sure to delight your classroom. The text reads like lyrics from a song, the illustrations like a dance on paper. Play some Celia Cruz in your classroom after you read this book and have a multicultural dance party celebrating this incredibly important woman told in this beautiful and engaging book.
Youtube: Celia Cruz: Rie Y Llora