Celeste Mendoza

Decades: 1990s 2000s


1930, Santiago de Cuba, Cuba, d. 22 November 1998, Havana, Cuba. Flatteringly known as the ‘rumba queen’ of 50s Cuba, Mendoza’s speciality was guaracha, the dynamic rumba style informed by African rhythms. As well as being a vivid performer and interpreter, she was also a well-known dancer and actress in and around Havana. Mendoza moved to the Cuban capital as a child, beginning her career in the early 50s as a singer on the television show CMQ. She subsequently released a string of highly successful albums. After Cuba’s revolution Mendoza elected to stay in the country, performing at the Gran Music Hall De Cuba revue alongside artists such as Los Zafiros. However, her heavy drinking had caught up with her by the mid-60s, when she began to fall from popularity. She died at home of respiratory failure in 1998, her body only discovered several days after her death.

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