Celebrity, "Crossover," and Cubanidad: Celia Cruz as "La Reina de Salsa," 1971-2003

When Cuban-born Celia Cruz arrived in New York City in 1962, she faced audiences that dismissed her as irrelevant to their current musical and cultural preferences. The boom in ethnic pride of the 1970s, though, allowed Celia to emerge as the only female superstar of salsa, the "new" sound of Latin music. From 1971 to 2003, Celia developed into a dynamic entertainer representative of the commercial success of salsa music, the musical, linguistic, and cultural possibilities and tensions associated with "crossover," and the essence or cubanidad of the Cuban exile community. Throughout this paper, I argue that Celia both manufactured and resisted her popularity with a mainstream audience, demonstrating that "crossing over" does not necessitate a shift from the margin to mainstream but may also represent a shift from one sort of margin to another.