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AZUCA! By Ariel Navarro.

With over 60 albums, multiple Grammy awards and a career that lasted over 55 years, by the queen of Salsa. Known for her popular catchphrase "azucaaar", Mrs. Cruz was a huge star all throughout Latin America and she has traveled all over the world to perform. When she first started in Cuba though, it took a little while for her to make it big singing with the Sonora Matancera group. She eventually found success and never forgot where she came from. 

When Fidel Castro's regime took over in 1959, she was on a tour and refused to return to Cuba. Becoming a citizen of the USA, she linked up with the Tito Puente. However, their collaboration wasn't very successful. Her first real taste of success is when she collaborated with Johnny Pacheco and the legendary Fania All Stars. That's when her career really took off, started making great music left and right and established her self as a legend. I remember watching an interview around 2001 where she said she has a recurring dream that she performs her heart out in her beloved Cuba. 

Her signature shout, "Azuca!" (Sugar!), came from a dining experience at a Miami restaurant, when her Cuban waiter asked if she took sugar in her coffee. As she recalled in the Billboard interview with Cobo, "I said, 'Chico, you're Cuban. How can you even ask that? With sugar!' And that evening during my show - I always talk during the show so the horn players can rest their mouths - I told the audience the story and they laughed. And one day, instead of telling the story, I simply walked down the stairs and shouted 'Azuca!'"

Unfortunately that never came to fruition because of Cuban politics and she lost her battle with brain cancer in 2003. Let us celebrate an amazing artist that was always on top of her game. Small in stature but a voice and music made her a giant. Her legacy lives on forever

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