Born in Cuba, Celia Cruz intended to become a teacher, but after winning a talent show in 1947 where she sang “Nostalgia,” her plans changed. By the 1950s, she became the lead singer for La Sonora Matancera. For the next 10 years, the group was the rave throughout Latin America. In the ‘70s, Cruz’s popularity soared as Americans warmed up to salsa. Performing with such artists as Johnny PAcheco and Tito Puente, Cruz cut several albums including “Celia and Johnny,” “Tremendo Cache” and “Recordando el Ayer.” A legendary performer, she has received several Grammy Awards as well as Billboard’s 1978 Country’s Best Female Performer. She also has released more than 70 albums, 20 of them gold. (Photo Courtesy of