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Queen of salsa Celia Cruz will be the first Afro Latina to appear on a U.S. quarter

Cuban American salsa singer Celia Cruz onstage performing at <em>VH1 Divas Live: The One and Only Aretha Franklin</em> in New York City in 2001. Cruz is being honored on the U.S. quarter in 2024.
Scott Gries/Getty Images
Cuban American salsa singer Celia Cruz onstage performing at VH1 Divas Live: The One and Only Aretha Franklin in New York City in 2001. Cruz is being honored on the U.S. quarter in 2024.

Celia Cruz was used to making history. The late Cuban American icon recorded over 80 albums, earned 23 gold records, won five Grammy Awards, and received the president's National Medal of Arts. And now, the U.S. Mint is honoring Cruz with a quarter of her own, making her the first Afro Latina to appear on the coin.

She is one of five honorees who are a part of the American Women Quarters Program for 2024. The program, which began in 2022 and runs until 2025, celebrates the accomplishments and contributions of American women. Other honorees for 2024 include Patsy Takemoto Mink, the first woman of color to serve in Congress; Dr. Mary Edwards Walker, a Civil War surgeon and suffragist; Pauli Murray, a civil rights activist and lawyer; and Zitkala-Ša, a voting rights activist from the Yankton Sioux Nation.

"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," said Mint Director Ventris C. Gibson in a statement.

"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."

Cruz was born in 1925 in Havana. She initially made a splash in Cuba as the lead singer for the country's most popular orchestra, La Sonora Matancera. After the Cuban Revolution, she immigrated to the U.S. in 1961 and helped define the sound of the salsa music we know and love today. Her energetic stage presence, extravagant costumes and incredible voice made her a household name during her more than 60-year career. She died in 2003 at the age of 77.

The designs for the 2024 American Women Quarters will be released in mid-2023.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Pablo Valdivia
Pablo Valdivia is an Audience Editor at NPR who is focused on elevating and telling Latino stories across digital, radio and podcast. He also develops strategies to help call in the community across the network and works to ensure that Latino voices get the visibility they deserve.
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