Salsa legend denied artist's visa to America twice in 50s

Associated Press   Posted on Sun, Jul. 25, 2004

Salsa legend Celia Cruz was refused an artist's visa to visit America at least twice in the 1950s, according to recently declassified documents.

Cruz, who died last summer of a brain tumor in her Fort Lee, N.J., home, was a star on the stage and airwaves with Cuba's celebrated Sonora Matancera band in the 1950s.

But the document in Cruz's once-classified 32-page FBI file said she "well-known communist singer and stage star," according to a story published Sunday by The Miami Herald.

The alleged activities predate Fidel Castro's communist revolution on the island, during a time when Cruz was in her teens and 20s. Cruz was later known as an anti-communist icon of the Cuban-American exile community.

Cruz was first refused a visa in May 1952, the Herald reported based on documents it obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request. She was then refused again in July 1955 under a provision of the Immigration and Nationality Act that weeds out suspected subversives.

The memo quotes reports that claim she was among a group in 1951 that signed a letter published in a Communist Party newspaper that endorsed a Pro-Peace Congress. It also claimed she was a member of Cuba's Socialist Youth movement, at age 20.

None of the records provide proof of the claims, including one that Cruz met secretly at age 27 with Cuban Socialist Party Secretary General Blas Roca Calderio, and had used an October 1953 concert as cover to meet covertly with communists in Caracas, Venezuela.

At the time, these activities were legal in Cuba. But U.S. immigration law forbade entry to foreigners found to have communist affiliations or anti-government sympathies.

Cruz would eventually get permission to visit the United States two years later, in 1957. She traveled to New York again in 1960, to perform, and was granted asylum in 1961.

Cruz never mentioned her early blacklisting to anyone, even her husband, trumpeter Pedro Knight.

But Cruz was aware of her record and sought to clear her name, according to a confidential Oct. 11, 1961, telegram from the U.S. Embassy in Mexico City.

Information from: The Miami Herald,

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