Latinas are making their voice heard in the music industry. From Tejano music to salsa and pop to folk music, Latina musicians are gaining acclaim and taking the reigns as Latina musical superstars. Meet some mujeres who broke ground in the music charts.
Selena Quintanilla- (1971-1995) – Tejano Music
The “Queen of Tejano Music” born in Lake Jackson, Texas, Selena Quintanilla began her career with the family band Selena y Los Dinos. She started singing at the age of 10 along with her brother Abraham and Suzette who played bass and drums. Spanish wasn’t her first language, but was taught by her father and she soon spoke Spanish fluently. Her success began in the ‘80s with albums Selena Live and Amor Prohhibido. Known for Tejano Music she won Tejano Music Awards for “Best Female Vocalist of the Year” and “Performer of the Year.” Soon falling in love with the band’s lead guitarist Chris Perez they ran off and got married in secret. Sadly her story ends in 1995 being shot and killed by Yolanda Saldivar who worked with her as the founder of Selena’s fan club. After her death, her story and music were kept alive by the film Selena starring Jennifer Lopez.
Celia Cruz – (1925-2003) – Salsa
The Cuban-American vibrant salsa singer was born in Havana, Cuba on October 21, 1925. She was one of 14 children. She already had success in her teen years winning various talent shows and competitions in Cuba. Although her father encouraged her to go to school and become a teacher, her true passion was to sing. Her career began in the ‘50s when she joined the orchestra Sonara Matancera which toured around Latin America. Once Fidel Castro assumed control of Cuba in 1959, Cruz and her husband Pedro Knight immigrated to the United States and became United States citizens. Associating with Tito Puente, she went on to create eight albums with Tico Records. Recording 23 gold albums, she won Grammys and Latin Grammys making her the first female salsa superstar. She was renowned internationally as the “Queen of Salsa.” Not limiting herself to music, she appeared in several movies and even earned a star on Hollywood’s Walk of Fame. She was also awarded the American National Medal of the Arts by the National Endowment of the Arts. She died in 2003 of brain cancer in her New Jersey home.
Joan Baez –(1941- ) – Folk Music
The famous activist known for her unique voice was born in 1941 in Staten Island, New York. Joan Baez born from a Scottish mother involved in social causes and Mexican physicist father committed to pacifism she became a performer. Singing and playing the ukulele at age 14, she found her niche as a folk singer. The pacifist singer is also a songwriter and activists for women’s rights, children, civil rights and anti-war activist. She sang “We Shall Overcome” at the march organized by Dr.Martin Luther King, Jr.in Washington in 1963. From supporting civil rights, she was also involved in the antiwar movement to end the conflict in Vietnam. Being the last act on Friday, she wished everyone a good morning at Woodstock and perform at 1:00am. Her latest album was released in 2003 called Dark Chords on a Big Guitar. Married to David Harris, she had a son and now lives in California where she continues to be the voice for causes important to her.
Gloria Estefan- (1957- ) – Latin Pop
Gloria María Milagrosa Fajardo García de Estefan, best known as Gloria Estefan was born on 1957 in Havana, Cuba. Fleeing Cuba as a toddler, she took care of her sister and father who was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis while her mother worked to support the family. She met her husband Emilio Estefan at a wedding and became part of the band he was in which was later renamed the Miami Sound Machine. The band’s first English album Eyes of Innocence had a single which rose in the European dance charts called “Dr.Beat.” The song “Conga” became the first single to hit Billboard’s pop, dance black, and Latin American charts at the same time. Out of 15 nominations, she has won seven Grammy Awards in her career. While on tour the band’s bus was involved in an accident where Gloria suffered a broken vertebra in her back which she bounced back from after a long recovery. She has also written children’s books, collaborated with musician Carlos Santana, and appeared in films.