The blackness of sugar: Celia cruz and the performance of (trans)nationalism

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35 Scopus citations


Studies on transnational cultures have shown that local, national identities are not necessarily subordinated to, or erased by, the globalizing forces of the economy. Rather, the local mediates transnational cultures as well as it is transformed by the crossing of cultural boundaries. Likewise, emerging interdisciplinary and cultural studies approaches to Latin(o) popular music examine the ways in which musical production, circulation and reception create cultural spaces that challenge hegemonic notions of national identity and discrete cultural boundaries. This article examines the figure of the Queen of Salsa, Celia Cruz, and the tensions among the multiple, transnational subjectivities that are constituted through her musical repertoire, her performances on stage, the aesthetics of her body, and her public statements in interviews. Having spanned more than sixty years of performances and recordings, Celia Cruz's diverse repertoire and musical selections have served as a performative locus for the negotiations of her Cubanness (her exile and national identity) and a hemispheric, Latin American identity that also includes the United States. Likewise, her construction of blackness as an Afro-Cuban woman transforms and is transformed by her collaborations with African-American musicians and singers, from jazz to hip-hop. Celia Cruz has also crossed racial and cultural boundaries by collaborating with Anglo musicians and by tropicalizing rock music. Her staged persona and her body aesthetics also reveal the fluidity with which the Queen of Latin music assumes diverse racial, national and historical identities while she simultaneously asserts her Cubanness through the use of Spanish on stage. Celia Cruz serves as a complex and intriguing icon of the relational nature of nationalism and transnationalism.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)223-236
Number of pages14
JournalCultural Studies
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1999

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cultural Studies
  • Anthropology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • General Social Sciences


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