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Celia Cruz, icon of salsa music, to be the first Afro Latina to appear on a US quarter

The late Cuban American singer Celia Cruz, known as the Queen of Salsa, will be the first Afro Latina to appear on the U.S. quarter.

Cruz was one of the 20th century’s most celebrated Latin music artists. She recorded over 80 albums and gained worldwide fame.

She was recognized with 23 gold albums, three Grammy Awards, four Latin Grammy Awards and the President’s National Medal of Arts, according to the Smithsonian Institution. She was also honored with a posthumous Lifetime Achievement Award at the 2016 Grammys.

The Mint is issuing five quarters every year from 2022 to 2025 to honor “ethnically, racially, and geographically diverse individuals.” The women come from diverse fields, among them suffrage, civil rights, abolition, government, the humanities, science, space and the arts.

“All of the women being honored have lived remarkable and multi-faceted lives, and have made a significant impact on our Nation in their own unique way. The women pioneered change during their lifetimes, not yielding to the status quo imparted during their lives. By honoring these pioneering women, the Mint continues to connect America through coins which are like small works of art in your pocket.”

Mint Director Ventris C. Gibson said in a news release

Born in Havana in 1925, Cruz began singing in the 1940s. After the 1959 Cuban revolution, she exiled in the U.S. after a performance tour in Mexico.

Although salsa was a genre dominated by male artists, Cruz became a celebrated star and helped increase the popularity of salsa and Latin music in general.

The U.S. Mint selected Cruz and four other women as the 2024 honorees for the American Women Quarters Program.

The other women are Patsy Takemoto Mink of Hawaii, the first woman of color to serve in Congress; Dr. Mary Edwards Walker, a Civil War-era surgeon, women’s rights advocate and abolitionist; the Rev. Pauli Murray, a poet, writer, activist, lawyer and Episcopal priest; and Zitkala-Ša, also known as Gertrude Simmons Bonnin, a writer, composer, educator and political activist for Native Americans’ right to U.S. citizenship and other civil rights.

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Written by Jamil Johnson