Celia Was Us

There was never an entertainer who was so involved with her community

By Alberto Marrero Salas
Published on LatinoLA: July 21, 2003

Celia Was Us

A part of Calle Ocho, Little Habana, Peter Pan Flights, the Bay of Pigs and all other places and events that make up the essence of the Cuban exile experience passed away with the death of Celia Cruz.

Celia Cruz was us and we were her. Never politically correct, Celia never forgot who she was and where she had come from. Her music was ours. Her yearnings of returning to a free Cuba were our yearnings.

We all grew up to tunes like Bemba Colora, Kimbara, Canto a La Habana and of course El Yerberito. We listened, sang, danced and enjoyed knowing that this was ours. A delicious gift from Celia to us, her people, los exiliados.

She was family. A tremendous once-in-a-lifetime talent but all the same family. Any one of us would have been right at home with her and her wonderful companion, Pedro Knight, tomandose un cafecito and discussing the latest chisme.

I was fortunate to meet her and her husband at an informal reunion in an apartment of a family member in the Sunset Echo Park area that was the hub of the tiny Cuban exile community here in Los Angeles during the early sixties and seventies.

In all of my memory, there has never been an entertainer more involved, more part of her own community than Celia Cruz.

Right after the 1980 Mariel boat lift, it was Celia Cruz who headed a televised marathon in order to raise funds for the Marielitos: The boat people, her people.

Celia, thank you for all the wonderful music and talent. But most of all, thank you for being us and allowing us to be in you.


About Alberto Marrero Salas:
Alberto R. Marrero Salas was born in Cuba 1953 and exiled to the US in 1959. Administrator Nacara2000/ Estamos Unidos (Wilshire) Immigration Service. Eight children, married to Olivia Rodriguez from La Libertad, El Salvador.

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