Úrsula Hilaria Celia de la Caridad Cruz Alfonso de la Santísima Trinidad (October 21, 1925 – July 16, 2003) was a Cuban-American salsa performer.
One of the most popular salsa artists of the 20th century, she earned twenty-three gold albums and was renowned internationally as the “Queen of Salsa” as well as “La Guarachera de Cuba.”
She spent much of her career living in New Jersey, and working in the United States and several Latin American countries. Leila Cobo of Billboard Magazine once said “Cruz is indisputably the best known and most influential female figure in the history of Cuban music.”
When she was a teenager, her aunt took her and her cousin to cabarets to sing, but her father encouraged her to keep attending school in hopes that she would become a Spanish language teacher. However, one of her teachers told her that as an entertainer she could earn in one day what most Cuban teachers earned in a month. Cruz began singing in Havana’s radio station Radio Garcia-Serra’s popular “Hora del Té” daily broadcast, she sang the tango “Nostalgias” (and won a cake as first place) often winning cakes and also opportunities to participate in more contests. Her first recordings were made in 1948 in Venezuela.
With Fidel Castro assuming control of Cuba in 1959, Cruz and her husband, Pedro Knight, refused to return to their homeland and became citizens of the United States. In 1966, Cruz and Tito Puente began an association that would lead to eight albums for Tico Records.