That’s what Celia Cruz says about herself in a short film shown at the end of the exhibit Azúcar: The Life and Music of Celia Cruz. A statement like that, from anyone else, would seem self-righteous and arrogant, but our humble Celia explains in Spanish, “my parents Simon and Catalina are both dead. There is no way another Celia Cruz can be made”. She is right of course, but there really will never be any one like her. This intriguing woman’s career spanned six decades, from the Tropicana in Havana to Madison Square Garden in New York City. The exhibit showcases several of her unique stage dresses (some of which I was able to photograph, and you can see in the extended entry), and some of her awards, including two Grammy’s and her National Medal of Arts, given to her in 1994 by President Clinton. On the walls were many pictures of Celia during different eras of her life, with a few paragraphs explaining the scenes, such as an early promotional picture with La Sonora Matencera from the early 1950’s, at the Tropicana, and several with Johnny Pacheco and Tito Puente in 70’s.
Around us were visitors both old and young. Some of the older ones would sit and watch the various little films throughout, and you could see a twinkle in their eye, or a tap of a finger. These videos took them back to their youth, if only for a moment. One older woman was sitting next to me during a film showing Celia’s contribution to Fania Records (the record label founded by Johnny Pacheco). She glanced over to me as I was holding Matty, looked down at him, and smiled. I’m sure it pleased her to no end that I, old enough to be her granddaughter, was there surrounded by all things Celia, and exposing my children to the beauty of her voice and her life. And that is what Celia is: Timeless. And Unforgettable.
The exhibit is no longer here in Miami, but I strongly encourage you to visit if it comes to a city near you.
Cuando salí de Cuba,
Dejé mi vida,
Dejé mi amor.
Cuando Salí de Cuba,
Dejé enterrado mi corazón.”
Espero que recuperes tu corazón pronto, Celia.
Que en Paz descanses.