Today’s guest post is brought to you by Lauren Ivy Chiong. Lauren writes the blog ReelMama.com, a resource for fun and memorable family together time, specializing in family entertainment and parenting. Today, Lauren is sharing with us 5 Cuban artists you need to know about.
Cuban culture is rich with the contributions of creative individuals who have made their mark on the world stage through music, film, sculpture, painting, and dance. Here are 5 Cuban artists you need to know about, as their international creative influence is undisputed.
5 Cuban Artists You Need To Know About
Perhaps the most celebrated Cuban performer of all time, Celia Cruz is widely known around the world as the Queen of Salsa. Beloved throughout the Spanish-speaking world, Celia became famous not only her vibrant music but for her flamboyant stage costumes and trademark cry of “Azucar!” (“Sugar!”), which was her way of celebrating her zest for life and its sweetness.
Celia Cruz’s life had very humble beginnings in Havana, Cuba; her father worked for the railroad, while her mother stayed at home caring for their large family of fourteen. Yet Celia’s childhood was greatly enriched by the thriving musical environment of 1930s Cuba. Celia was of Afro-Cuban heritage and studied music with African roots while still in Cuba. This influenced her recordings for the rest of her life. Initially audiences were reluctant to embrace a black performer, yet Celia was unstoppable, and soon won over their hearts with her unforgettable sound.
After Fidel Castro took control of Cuba in 1959, Celia, who had been touring and performing throughout Latin America and beyond, made the choice not to return to her home country. She and her husband Pedro Knight became American citizens and made New Jersey their permanent home. Celia longed to return to a free and democratic Cuba, and sang about this theme throughout her life.
Cruz is especially important to the Miami Cuban community, which honored her with the first star on the Latin Walk of Fame in Little Havana in 1987. Cruz passed away from cancer in July 2003.
A legend in the world of Cuban jazz, Arturo Sandoval’s gift for playing the trumpet is unrivaled. This comes as no surprise to his legions of fans, since his mentor was none other than the iconic African-American trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie. The two toured together throughout Europe, and Gillespie showcased his young friend’s talent in the prestigious United Nations Orchestra. At 63, Sandoval continues to record albums almost yearly, most recently the 2012 Grammy-winning Dear Diz (Every Day I Think of You), a tribute to his late mentor. Sandoval is also a gifted pianist and jazz composer.
Who could have imagined that the descendant of slaves would go on to become an influential artist in one of the most important artistic movements of Paris? This is the remarkable story of Agustín Cárdenas, who created sculptures as an active member of the French Surrealist movement. His modern works in stone and marble are reminiscent of the artists Brancusi and Henry Moore. However, Cárdenas created a style all his own, because he drew inspiration from his West African heritage, the Dogon tribe of Mali. The Dogon are particularly known for their masks and wooden sculptures, and provided a rich foundation for Cárdenas’ imagination. Cárdenas passed away in February 2001, but his work can be seen in galleries and art museums around the world, including the Musée de la Sculpture en Plein Air in Paris and the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes de la Habana in Havana.
A prolific documentarian, Amy Serrano is renowned for exploring cutting-edge social issues important to Hispanic communities in the United States. She has produced and directed numerous broadcasts for PBS. Her works include the PBS film “A Woman’s Place: Voices of Contemporary Hispanic-American Women” featuring Isabel Allende, Maria Hinojosa, and many other pioneering Latinas. Serrano is most known for writing, shooting, producing, and directing the documentary “The Sugar Babies: The Plight of the Children of Agricultural Workers in the Sugar Industry of the Dominican Republic.” The film chronicles the lives of the descendants of those who first worked in the sugar cane fields of Hispaniola, and exposes how these descendants are currently trafficked from Haiti to the Dominican Republic to work on sugar plantations in deplorable conditions. Serrano has received numerous awards, including the Tesoro Award in Art and Culture and the Fellowship with the National Hispana Leadership Institute.
José Manuel Carreño
José Manuel Carreño has been one of the most important contributors to the world of dance in recent decades. He began his training with the Cuban National Ballet School and would go on to receive international acclaim after winning the Gold Medal at the New York International Ballet Competition in 1987 and the 1990 Grand Prix at the International Ballet Competition in Jackson, Mississippi. Carreño spent his career performing as a principal dancer with the English National Ballet, the Royal Ballet, and more than fifteen years with the American Ballet Theater in New York City. Carreño’s contributions to dance were recognized with an award from Dance Magazine in 2004. He is now the Artistic Director of Ballet San Jose.