Celia Cruz’s Legacy Lives on at FIU

Original Scores, Sheets, and Photos of the Celia Cruz Donation at the FIU Green Library. Elena Key / PantherNOW

Elena Key / Staff Writer

Celia Cruz’s salsa music has influenced people all over the world. Now hundreds of her pieces can be accessed by the public at FIU’s Green Library at the Modesto Maidique Campus.

Known as the “Queen of Salsa,” Cruz is famed for songs such as “La Negra Tiene Tumbao,” “La Vida Es Un Carnaval” and “Quimbara.”

The discussion surrounding FIU’s acquisition of Cruz’s pieces started prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, and the physical collection arrived this past May. 

FIU’s collection includes Cruz’s Musical scores and sheets; titles, images, vinyl, and CDs. Musical Scores are pages printed with the lyrics and musical notes of all the instruments in a song, while a sheet only reflects the notes of one instrument.  

Omer Pardillo donated the collection on behalf of the Celia Cruz Foundation. Pardillo is Celia Cruz’s former manager and continues to be in charge of things concerning Cruz.

CDs and vinyls from the Celia Cruz collection at FIU Green Library. Elena Key / PantherNOW

“We’re also going to be presenting the material at future exhibitions at both the library, Casa Cuba and also FIU’s School of Music,” said María Carla Chicuén, founding executive director of FIU’s CasaCuba. “You’ll be able to see the scores, and hear from experts about the contents of this material.”

FIU’s Casa Cuba is also part of the collaboration involved in receiving and housing the collection.

“It is truly a privilege,” said Chicuén. “It is a testament to Casa Cuba’s ability to be the home for Cuban cultural treasures long before we open the doors of the facility.”


Original sheet music for Celia Cruz’s “Sugar.” Elena Key / PantherNOW

The use of the collection is mainly for research purposes, said Veronica Gonzalez, sound and image librarian at FIU’s Green Library.

Not only is the collection present, but all pieces are able to be played in their original format at the FIU Green Library. 

“This is something that we are very proud of that we actually have the way to digitize to reform it but to play every single material we house in the university,” said Gonzalez. “Our students, professors and community can play all the materials we have here.”

Visitors must make an appointment to access digital images and physical material in the collection. The physical storage is not permitted to be taken out of the location.

The sheets will be digitalized and the archives department scans every sheet of paper at a high resolution and then stores the files in offline storage for preservation. 

The physical original sheets and scores are kept in acid-free sleeves and boxes.

They must be in cold temperatures and avoid direct lighting to ensure the preservation of their condition.  

The digital sheets will not be published at an extremely high resolution because they would take too long to load and are at risk of being copyrighted.

“We also save them into different locations to ensure the availability of the materials in a long term but we also create low-resolution files for And let’s say circulation or for patrons availability, so everyone that wants to visit us, we’re for sure,” said Gonzalez.

Anne Prestamo, FIU’s Dean of Libraries, explained the inestimable value of having all the pieces within the same archive.

“From a librarian and an archivist’s point of view, that is the very best thing that we hope can happen… when like materials can be co-located together. We view that as a win-win for everybody,” said FIU’s Dean of Libraries Anne Prestamo. “It allows us to grow and expand in areas where we already have strengths. But to future researchers, it’s also a huge help, and convenience for them to be able to come to one place and find so many different but related things that they need. ”

This donation is not FIU’s first experience with housing musical collections.

“We [FIU] have the largest and most renowned, publicly available collection of Cuban and Latin American popular music,” said Maria Carla Chicuén, executive director of CasaCuba.

Cruz’s work not only impacts academics but also the culture at FIU. 

Cruz received an honorary doctorate degree from FIU in 1992.

“[Cruz] is an ambassador, and I think one of our greatest, if not our greatest contributions to the world…she is a force for unity [and] pride in heritage long after she’s gone,” said Chichuén. “I couldn’t be more humbled.”

Cruz’s music connects with those of Cuban and Latin culture to this day. 

“[Her] music and her joy and the many ways she inspired Cubans from every corner. To me, Celia is Casa Cuba, she represents the many things that are exceptional about her heritage,” said Chichuén.