Afro-Cuban women singers were not simply exotic sidepieces or gimmicky accessories accompanying the performances of the male singers and bandleaders dominating the Latin popular music landscape of the first three decades of the second half of the twentieth century. The personal life stories and professional careers of Graciela Pérez Grillo, Celia Cruz, and Lupe Victoria Yolí exemplify the various ways in which Cuban women of color crafted their musical identities and competed for audiences. This essay begins to reconstruct a more complete and thick history of Cuban and Latin popular music that allows Afro-Cuban women performers to speak not from the margins but from the center of the narrative as innovators, pioneers, and agents shaping the popular culture landscape on which they formed their professional careers. The stories told here reflect gender and racial solidarity and shared expressions of Afro-Cuban womanhood, but they also point to the realities of inclusion within the entertainment industry: compromise and competition, among each other and with the men in their lives.


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pp. 332-352
Launched on MUSE
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