LatinaLista — When it comes to the musical quilt of the United States, the Latino community has always been a part of it. Some musical artists experience fame only within the Latino community while others “break out” and cross over into mainstream acceptance.
That’s what can be said of five particular Latino artists who have been dubbed “Latin Music Legends” by the U.S. Postal Service and who will be awarded their own stamps as part of the 2011 commemorative stamp program.
Tito Puente, Carmen Miranda, Selena, Carlos Gardel and Celia Cruz will be honored in both Miami and San Antonio in March with the unveiling of their stamps.
San Diego artist, Rafael Lopez, painted “semi-realistic” portraits of the artists purposely freezing them in mid performance to convey a sense of their vitality and music.
The program’s Art director Ethel Kessler said, “My goal was that when you see the stamp, you hear the music.”
Each of the artists represents the genre of music that made them famous: Tejano, tango, samba, Latin jazz, and salsa. As is often the case with commemorative programs, the honorees are usually deceased. Yet, with these musical legends, everyone has the privilege of being able to still hear their voices and see their contributions to the evolution of US music — while appreciation for their talents is passed down to new generations.
However, since so few of the new generation actually buys stamps, let alone visits their local post office, we challenge the US postal service to get creative in making these images available to the public via alternative media that goes beyond pins or t-shirts.
While it would seem unfathomable that no one knows anything about the honorees, some may need a little refresher, courtesy of the US Postal Service:
Texas-born Selena Quintanilla-Perez (1971-1995) — known to fans simply as Selena — helped transform and popularize Tejano music by integrating techno-hip-hop beats and disco-influenced dance movements with a captivating stage presence. A Grammy recipient, the “Queen of Tejano” broke gender barriers with record sales and awards. Even after her tragic death, Selena remains an important representative of Latino culture.
A superb and evocative singer, Carlos Gardel (1890?-1935) was one of the most celebrated tango artists of all time. Raised in Argentina, Gardel helped popularize the tango in the United States, Europe, and throughout Latin America through his performances and recordings. “The man with the tear in his voice” also achieved fame as one of the stars of the Spanish-language cinema.
Born in Portugal and raised in Brazil, Carmen Miranda (1909-1955) achieved fame as a samba singer before moving to New York City, where she gained instant celebrity in theater, film, and radio. The “Brazilian Bombshell” appeared in 14 Hollywood musicals and recorded more than 300 songs. Her exotic signature outfit and persona are an inexhaustible source of inspiration.
Born in New York City to Puerto Rican parents, Tito Puente (1923-2000) was a musical virtuoso popularly known as El Rey, “The King”. With dynamic solos on the timbales and orchestral arrangements that have become classics in Latin music, Puente helped bring Afro-Cuban and Caribbean sounds to mainstream audiences. He performed for more than 60 years, and his legacy includes more than 140 albums.
A dazzling performer of many genres of Afro-Caribbean music, Celia Cruz (1925-2003) had a powerful contralto voice and a joyful, charismatic personality that endeared her to fans from different nationalities and across generations. Settling in the United States following the Cuban revolution, the “Queen of Salsa” performed for more than five decades and recorded more than 50 albums.