Category Archives: Hispanic Heritage Month

Books I’ve Read During Hispanic Heritage Month (Sep 15th-Oct 15th)

Wisdom From Kammbia Book Review 107: Celia: Mi Vida by Celia Cruz & Ana Cristina Reymundo

As a music lover, there are some songs you hear and immediately make you want to dance. Even if you cannot dance, the song commands you to move your body to the beat.  The Queen of Salsa (La Reina de la Salsa), Celia Cruz, has many songs that fit the prior description.  Every time, I hear La Vida Es Un Carnival or the modern classic, Quimbara, dancing ensues.  I have listened to those songs many times over the years, but I knew little about Celia’s music on the whole.

A couple of years ago, I found a copy of Celia’s autobiography, Celia: My Life, for a dollar and snap it up.  It has been sitting on my bookshelf for a while and I finally read it.  Celia told her life story growing up in pre-Castro Cuba until her last days in 2003, where she had reached the status as the “Queen of Salsa.”  Celia described her success and longevity in these words:

The secret doesn’t lie in being fashionable or in prancing around half-naked. Although I have always been very cutting-edge and I have used many styles of music in my repertoire. I don’t adapt myself to a specific style of music just because it’s in vogue. The secret lies in the way you treat your audience. You have to promise to give them the best of your God-given talent.

That’s wisdom from a legend.  The book highlighted like her work with the famed Cuban band La Sonora Matancera, the collaborations with the great (one of my absolute favorites) Tito Puente & the incredible Johnny Pacheco, and how she evolved as music tastes changed.  Celia talked about her family, especially her parents and Tia Ana. She described her life being a Cuban exile and strong feelings toward Fidel Castro. Also, how she came to use azucar! (sugar) in her performances. Through it all, Celia survived until the end and reading this autobiography opened my eyes to a world I did not have any knowledge of.

It surprised me to learn how many exiled Cuban musicians emigrated to Mexico during the time she was rising to prominence and the connection between the two countries.  Of course, they have a shared language, but Celia spoke fondly of the Mexican people and had deep roots with our southern neighbor.

In closing, I’m so glad that I finally read the Queen of Salsa’s autobiography.  It gave me a little more insight into the magic of Cruz’s music and her connection to the Spanish-speaking world.  Also, she is an American success story as well, and she belongs in the same musical neighborhood as Aretha Franklin, Patti LaBelle, Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughan, & Billie Holiday.  Celia: My Life is a must for her fans and I hope a link with others to learn about this incredible and unique talent.


Wisdom From Kammbia Book Review 98: Aura by Carlos Fuentes

Carlos Fuentes is a writer that I have wanted to read for a long time.  I have seen his books, The Old Gringo & The Death of Artemio Cruz, in used bookstores for years.  I have always meant to get one of those books, but never did.  However, I read an online review about Aura last week… Continue Reading

Wisdom From Kammbia Book Review 91: Sabrina and Corina by Kali Fajardo-Anstine

I love book cover art.  I was scrolling through my Goodreads page recently and noticed one of my friends add Sabrina & Corina by Kali Fajardo-Anstine to their TBR list.  The beautiful cover got my attention, and I bought book the next day. Sabrina & Corina is the debut book of Kali Fajardo-Anstine and has… Continue Reading

Wisdom From Kammbia Book Review 57: Signs Preceding the End of the World by Yuri Herrera

Signs Preceding The End of The World by Yuri Herrera is the first novel about the US-Mexico Border I can remember reading.  I read Cormac McCarthy’s Border Trilogy years ago but it did not deal directly with the current issues about the border. This book came to my attention during the controversy surrounding the novel… Continue Reading