'Queen of Salsa' Celia Cruz Will Make History as First Afro-Latina to Appear on U.S. Quarter

The late singer joins late notables including poet Maya Angelou, astronaut Sally Ride and first lady Eleanor Roosevelt in getting her own coin

Cuban singer Celia Cruz performs on July 11th 1999 at the North Sea Jazz Festival in the Hague, Netherlands.
Celia Cruz. Photo: Frans Schellekens/Redferns

Move over, George Washington.

Legendary salsa singer Celia Cruz will become the first Afro-Latina to appear on the U.S. quarter, the United States Mint announced last week.

Born Celia Caridad Cruz Alfonso, the Cuban-American singer was one of the most popular Latin artists of the 20th century. The five-time Grammy winner, who died in 2003 at the age of 77, joins four other notable women in the 2024 American Women Quarters Program — the designs of which are set to be released in mid-2023.

Others in the 2024 collection include Patsy Takemoto Mink, Dr. Mary Edwards Walker, Pauli Murray and Zitkala-Ša.

"All of the women being honored have lived remarkable and multi-faceted lives, and have made a significant impact on our nation in their own unique way," Mint Director Ventris Gibson said in a statement. "The women pioneered change during their lifetimes, not yielding to the status quo imparted during their lives. By honoring these pioneering women, the Mint continues to connect America through coins which are like small works of art in your pocket."

Cuban salsa singer Celia Cruz (1924 - 2003), circa 1970.
Celia Cruz. Michael Ochs Archives/Getty

The American Women Quarters Program launched in 2022 and will continue through 2025. The U.S. Mint will issue five new quarters each year.

Each year, the ethnically, racially, and geographically diverse individuals honored through the program reflect a wide range of accomplishments and fields, including suffrage, civil rights, abolition, government, humanities, science, space and the arts.

Mink was the first woman of color to serve in Congress who notably fought for gender and racial equality, affordable childcare and bilingual education. She was instrumental in the passage of Title IX, which was later renamed the Patsy T. Mink Equal Opportunity in Education Act.

Dr. Walker — a Civil War-era surgeon, women's rights advocate and abolitionist who crossed battle lines to care for wounded soldiers — is the only woman to be awarded the Medal of Honor. She was detained by Confederate troops as a suspected spy and held as a prisoner of war for four months.

Murray is known as one of the most important social justice advocates of the twentieth century thanks for her work as a poet, writer, activist, lawyer and Episcopal priest. A fierce advocate for civil rights, and for opposing racial and sex discrimination, she co-founded the National Organization for Women with Betty Friedan and other activists in 1966.

Zitkala-Ša, which means "red bird," is also known as Gertrude Simmons Bonnin. She was a writer, composer, educator, plus a political activist for Native Americans' right to United States citizenship and other civil rights. At age 8, she left her South Dakota home on the Yankton reservation to attend a boarding school run by white missionaries, where her native culture and traditions were prohibited.

Maya Angelou
United States Mint

Last year, Maya Angelou — the late prolific poet and civil rights activist, who died at the age of 86 in 2014 — became the first Black woman to be featured on the U.S. quarter.

Other trailblazing women featured on quarters now in circulation include the first American woman to soar into space, Dr. Sally Ride; the first woman elected principal chief of the Cherokee Nation Wilma Mankiller; the first female superintendent of Santa Fe, N.M., public schools Nina Otero-Warren; and the first Chinese American film star in Hollywood Anna May Wong — all from the 2022 batch.

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The 2023 list included Eleanor Roosevelt, the former First Lady, author, reformer and leader; Bessie Coleman, who was first African American and first Native American woman pilot and first African American to earn an international pilot's license; Jovita Idar, Mexican American journalist, activist, teacher and suffragist; Edith Kanakaʻole, the indigenous Hawaiian composer, chanter, dancer, teacher and entertainer; and Maria Tallchief, who was America's first prima ballerina and broke barriers as a Native American ballerina.

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