The face of the legendary Celia Cruz will be depicted on a U.S. quarter, according to the United States Mint. Widely known as the Queen of Salsa, the late Cuban singer was chosen along with four other exemplary women from history to be featured on the U.S. quarter as part of the American Women Quarters Program in 2024. She will also make history as the first Afro-Latina to appear on the coin.
Cruz, who is considered one of the most influential Latin singers of all time and a cultural icon, is remembered for her lively expression of “¡Azúcar!,” and for her highly influential body of work consisting of 37 albums.
The other honorees include Patsy Takemoto Mink, the first women of color to serve in Congress; Dr. Mary Edwards Walker, women’s rights advocate and Civil War era surgeon; poet, activist, and lawyer Pauli Murray; and Native American writer, composer, educator Zitkala-Ša. The four-year program “celebrates the accomplishments and contributions made by women of the United States,” states the official website.
Since joining La Sonora Matancera in the early ’50s up until her death in 2003 due to cancer, Cruz was unquestionably one of the most exuberant performers of Latin music. Her larger-than-life onstage presence coupled with her captivating charisma made her a legend in Latin America and beyond.
In the 1970s, she became a leading force in salsa music and joined Fania All Stars alongside Johnny Pacheco, Willie Colón, Tito Puente and other icons of the genre, a cultural phenomenon that took place in New York City and beyond. She later explored other tropical genres such as merengue and reggaetón. Some of her most memorable hits in history include “La Vida Es Un Carnaval,” “La Negra Tiene Tumbao,” and “Químbara” also featuring Johnny Pacheco.
She never lip-synched, and when asked to do it for TV performances, she refused. Cruz was also incredibly influential for many of today’s Latin stars. Her last 2003 album, Regalo del Alma, remained at No. 1 on the Top Latin Albums chart for three weeks.
“I’ve never thought of retiring. I’m healthy, I’m rolling, I’m rolling. I remember Celia Cruz,” reggaetón pioneer Ivy Queen previously told Billboard, who has long idolized and emulated Cruz. “Her last Premios Lo Nuestro performance, she had cancer. She walked from her chair to the stage, she sang, and … she sang. That’s what I’m doing. F–k it. She did it, I’m gonna do it.”
Although Cruz died two decades ago, her legacy continues to appear in various corners of pop culture. Last year, the estate of the salsa legend partnered with Archetype-IO to release her first NFT collection, which debuted in Art Basel 2022. In 2016, an 80-part series about her life became available for streaming on Netflix, titled Celia, by Telemundo.
For each year commencing in 2022 and running through 2025, the U.S. mint will issue five new reverse designs, and the obverse of the coin will still feature George Washington, but with a slightly different design from the previous quarter program. This year celebrates Bessie Colemen, Edith Kanaka’ole, Eleanor Roosevelt, Jovita Idar and Maria Tallchief.