At the July 28, 2021 City Commission meeting, Mayor Dan Gelber referred the above referenced item to the September 2021 Neighborhood and Qualify of Life Committee (“NQLC”) to consider the co-naming of Meridian Avenue, located between 19 Street and 18 Street/Harvey Milk Way, in honor of the late Cuban icon Celia Cruz, along with any amendment to Section 82-503 of the City Code that may be required to accomplish the co-naming.
At the September 20, 2021 NQLC meeting, the Committee passed a motion to move this item without a recommendation to the City Commission for further discussion. However, during the discussion, the Committee expressed a concern with continuing to amend the Naming Ordinance. The Committee believes that the current criteria in the Naming Ordinance was intentionally created to limit those categories that would authorize the co-naming of City streets; and the continued amendments to the City’s Naming Ordinance defeat the purpose and intent of the Ordinance by expanding those categories.
Known to many as the “Queen of Salsa,” Celia Cruz is unquestionably an enduring symbol of Cuban culture and continues to be recognized as one of the most popular Latin artists of all time nearly 18 years after her death. A true pioneer for women, Cubans, and Afro-Latinas, Celia Cruz was wholly unapologetic about her identity at a time when it was unpopular to do so. Celia Cruz began her rise to worldwide stardom in the 1950’s with the legendary Afro-Cuban group La Sonora Matancera.
Like many Cuban Americans today, Celia Cruz was exiled from her home country by the Castro Regime in 1960. Celia Cruz would go on to enjoy a nearly 60-year career of recording and performing salsa, rumba and reggaeton, while also starring in films and appearing on radio. Celia Cruz starred in the movie The Perez Family, which was filmed across Miami-Dade County, and sang the identifying spot segment for WQBA radio station in Miami, once known as La Cubanisima. In 1994, President Bill Clinton awarded Celia Cruz the National Endowment for the Arts award, the highest recognition granted by the United States government to an artist. In 1999, Celia Cruz was inducted into the International Latin Music Hall of Fame.
It is no secret that a strong connection exists between Celia Cruz and Miami Beach and the surrounding areas. Celia Cruz gave her final performance and last public appearance at the Miami Beach Convention Center during the tribute special Celia Cruz: Azucar! on March 13, 2003, just four months before her passing. Celia Cruz also performed live at the Orange Bowl Stadium during Carnaval Miami in 1991. In 2005, a 6,000-square foot exhibit titled Azucar! The Life and Music of Celia Cruz opened at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of American History in Washington, D.C. – the exhibit was later displayed at The Bass Museum in Miami Beach. In 2015, Mango’s Tropical Café held the Mango’s Miami Beach Tribute to the Queen of Salsa in honor of Celia Cruz and her iconic music. In 2016, the Wolfsonian- FIU Museum opened the exhibit Promising Paradise: Cuban Allure, American Seduction, which highlighted Cuba’s once thriving nightlife and featured one of the glamorous gowns that Celia Cruz wore while performing at the famous Cuban nightclub and casino the Tropicana.
In October 2018, the American Museum of the Cuban Diaspora opened the exhibition Por Siempre Celia (Forever Celia), highlighting the fascinating life of Celia Cruz. Today, one could often hear her music being played or sung throughout Miami Beach.
This item proposes co-naming Meridian Avenue, located between 19 Street and 18 Street/Harvey Milk Way, after Celia Cruz due to its proximity to the Miami Beach Convention Center, the place of her final performance and last public appearance prior to her death. Co-naming a street proximate to the Miami Beach Convention Center in honor of one of Cuba’s most prominent figures would be particularly symbolic and a fitting gesture to both the Queen of Salsa and the Cuban residents of Miami Beach.