Celia Cruz Is
If one were to think that such deranged politicking was limited to Castro’s ham-fisted public relations, one would be wrong. Armando Benedetti Jimeno, an embarrassment as a journalist and former Communications Minister of the suspect Colombian presidency of Ernesto Samper, published a hysterical stomach-churning screed in El Tiempo . In it, he sullies himself in public lying, making false claims and performing echo services for those that, for one reason or the other, despise the Cuban exile. Here are some of the pervasive lies, innuendos and outright false claims one finds Jimeno engaged in:
1. He knowingly lies when saying that Celia’s funerals were staged by “the Miami exile.” If he has evidence to the contrary, let him state so. Otherwise, there are no reasons to believe him over the late singer’s family, who by all accounts, were the ones involved in the fulfillment of Cruz’s wishes.
2. He calculatingly misrepresents well-established truths in Cruz’s career, such as the preeminent importance of Salsa in the development of a worldwide following for her interpretations, as well as sales figures and the ever increasing amount of live work demanded of her since the mid 70s until her passing. If that is not enough evidence for this blabbering ideologue of the endemic relations there are between Salsa and Cruz’s success... Then again, neither Castro, nor his sympathizers such as Jimeno are known for their capacity for reason or objectivity.
3. He makes dubious claims and relays anecdotal tales, without quoting any sources whatsoever, on Cruz’s personal and professional life.
4. His impersonation of a musicologist leaves much to be desired as he unwarrantedly measures her against his originality barometer. In other words, Celia didn’t invent something radically original in Latin music. No, she didn’t, nor has anyone ever claimed she did. Which –or whose– strawman is he following here? Talking about fecundity and originality, can anyone questioning Celia’s rareness be taken seriously?
In fairness, Jimeno does strain himself into admitting the obvious here and there, even offering scant acknowledgements on the reality of Cruz’s dominance and panache, as well as a surprising critique of Castro’s inhumane refusal to let Celia attend her mother’s funeral. Sanity, however, requires movement away from the type of ideological lunacy exhibited by him and his breed...
Fortitude betrays me and won’t support my desire to comment on the theologies exhibited during the homilies and their self-appointed role as political attachés of God, the historical revisionisms and omissions on Cruz’s life and career in all media, the blatant linkage of Cruz in the Miami media to the Cuban American National Foundation when she wasn’t such a hard liner, the issue of her age at the time of her passing, the fascinating aspects of the Latin death cultures, the immaturity of us all when it comes to issues of ethnicity, the unwarranted “divinization” of Miami in Celia’s career, the entertaining gossiping on all the celebrities attending her funerals (there must be a God as Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton didn’t leech off Celia!) and Patti Labelle’s Ave María at St. Patrick’s Cathedral... Celia is dead and her remains lie in the same cemetery as Machito and Tito Puente.
The composer of “La vida es un carnaval” related an anecdote on Celia’s trip to the Guantánamo U.S. naval installation where she allegedly took a handful of dirt from the outer fence of the base to take back with her. It then dawned on her that she would be taking captive territory. She couldn’t take land that wasn’t free from the island that refused her entrance upon her mother’s death. She cried much during her only return to the land privileged by her birth. The tears were wiped and Celia Cruz eventually returned to die at home where she wasn’t banned, where she was free and where she achieved immortality.