79. Tierra Prometida
Written by Henry Castro
Performed by Celia Cruz
From the CD Feliz Encuentro (BBO, USA 1982)



Tierra Prometida One

When the world famous singing star Celia Cruz, Queen of Salsa, died at the age of 78 in 2003, the Havana newspaper Granma published an obituary in which the flamboyant artiste was described as ‘[…] an important Cuban performer… who popularised our music in the United States. Over the last four decades she was systematically active in campaigns against the Cuban revolution for which she was utilised as an icon by the counterrevolutionary enclave in southern Florida.’


Tierra Prometida Two

The website contactmusic.com tells us that in America, in the area of Miami known as Little Havana, ‘Miami mourners laid flowers at a small stone marked with the singer’s name […] Spanish-language radio stations in Miami aired hours of tributes and the daily El Nuevo Herald devoted its entire front page to a photo of the singer and an eulogy toEternal Celia.’


Tierra Prometida Three

And on the Caribbean website www.kwabs.com we found this: ‘The winds of change and a nexus beyond politics. Cuban music did not escape the winds of political and social changes that swept through the country with the revolution of 1959. Some musicians went into exile, some stayed and supported the revolution. The Cuban experience soon became a complex reality divided by a huge political chasm between the revolutionaries who stayed in Cuba to fight for a new perspective of the Cuban existence and those who went in exile either for personal political conviction or just because they felt out of place in the emerging political reality. Celia Cruz for instance went into exile in 1960 and became an ambassador of the Cuban ‘Joie de Vivre’ in the United States and around the world. This sort of happy people perspective of the Cuban music failed, however, to remind the world that Cuban artists did also express the feeling of the excluded and the downtrodden in Cuba.’


Tierra Prometida Four

Broadcaster and journalist Eugene Godfried at afrocubaweb.com describes the effect of the Cuban revolution: ‘The revolutionary process which started in 1953 and succeeded on January 1st of 1959 meant an immediate halt to the exploitation of workers and peasants and in particular of the suffering of the black masses. It also marked the initiation of a process of change to the inhumane situations which were affecting the entire working people of Cuba. Alliances among different sectors of the poor and exploited farmers, workers, intellectuals and businessmen were formed with the objective of deposing the ruling elite and their segregationist racist system.’

Cuba’s socialist revolution prompted many Cubans to enter self imposed exile, fleeing the revolution for a new life in America in the cities of Miami, New York and, in Celia Cruz’s case, New Jersey, home of Frank Sinatra and the setting of award winning television drama series The Sopranos. The formidable body of work that comprises Cruz’s career is probably the most celebratory and sensual canon of exile-songs of the twentieth century.

Cruz, one of the most well known and enduring Cuban singers of the twentieth century, recorded over seventy albums during her five decades as a recording artiste. In 2003 she collected her fifth Grammy for best salsa recording, and was also honoured in 1995 with the Billboard Lifetime Achievement Award. In 1994, she was presented with the National Medal of Arts, the highest US official honour, by President Bill Clinton.

Cruz never forgave Castro for Cuba’s transformation, and Castro, she said, never forgave her for leaving.




<   >