LATINO VOICES

Google Celebrates Celia Cruz's Birthday With Doodle

10/21/2013 09:57 am ET
Google

Web surfers woke up Monday to a sprinkling of azúcar.

Google celebrated what would have been Celia Cruz's 88th birthday Monday with a doodle honoring the Cuban singer who rose to international stardom as one of the world's greatest salsa singers.

"There have been many posthumous tributes to Celia in these last ten years, but this one by Google is certainly one of the most important and far-reaching," Omer Pardillo-Cid, sole executor of the Celia Cruz Estate, said in a press release. "She would have loved it!"

Born Úrsula Hilaria Celia de la Caridad Cruz Alfonso to a working-class family in Havana in 1925, Cruz took up singing as a child -- an interest later encouraged by her aunt, who introduced her to the world of Cuba's nightclubs, according to Billboard. A student of Cuba's Conservatory of Music, Cruz's career took off in 1950 when she joined La Sonora Matancera, one of Cuba's most prominent dance orchestras.

The singer left the island while on tour with La Sonora Matancera in 1960, shortly after the Cuban Revolution, and never returned. The Cuban government refused to let her visit the island to attend her father's funeral years later, according to The New York Times.

It was in the United States that Cruz would become an international icon and earn the moniker "The Queen of Salsa," after launching a solo career with percussionist Tito Puente, and performing with the Fania All Stars in the 1970s. She became famous for her booming voice, energetic performances punctuated by her signature outbursts of "azúcar!" -- Spanish for "sugar" -- and her over-the-top dresses and wigs.

"It's as if the earth opened her mouth to talk and sing," Marvette Perez, curator of Latino history and culture at the National Museum of American History in Washington, told NPR in 2005.

She continued cutting records and performing as a solo artists well into her seventies, including the award-winning "La Negra Tiene Tumbao" in 2001. By the time of her death at 77 two years later, she had raked in 10 Grammys, honorary doctorates from Yale and the University of Miami, and a Smithsonian Lifetime Achievement Award.

The doodle won plaudits from Celia's dedicated fans, who took to Twitter to cheer the Internet mammoth's artwork.

The outpouring of emotion wouldn't surprise those familiar with the artist's work. As Celia told The New York Times in an interview: "When people hear me sing, I want them to be happy, happy, happy. I don't want them thinking about when there's not any money, or when there's fighting at home. My message is always felicidad — happiness."

Revisit some of Celia's greatest hits in the videos below.

Celia Cruz Greatest Hits
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