6 April 1930
Santiago de Cuba, Cuba
22 November 1998 (aged 68)
Celeste Mendoza, who was born in Santiago de Cuba, sang ballads with a convincing heft in her voice, a depth of emotion that made them work. But it was her singing of guaguancos, the music of the street rumbas, that made her famous. When she sang them – a good example is her version of ''La Confianza,'' which she recorded with Bebo Valdes's orchestra – the sadness in her voice and her smooth virtuosity mixed well. And they earned her a place in the history of the music: previously, guaguancos and rumbas were almost exclusively the territory of male singers.
She started her career in the 1950's, winning a number of radio contests. In the late 1950's she signed with Gema Records, and performed with Mr. Valdez's orchestra on a series of recordings that included some of her earliest hits, among them ''Que Me Castigue Dios'' and ''Soy Tan Feliz.'' She also recorded with the band of Ernest Duarte, a group that featured some of the most important singers of the time, including Rolando La Serie, Rolo Martinez and Tata Ramos.
Ms. Mendoza continued making records with some of the best rumba groups on the island, including Los Papines. She traveled widely across Europe and Latin America, and she was a star of radio and television in Cuba. She recorded with the son group Sierra Maestra and made the original version of ''Bemba Colorao,''. Ms. Mendoza also kept making records with Egrem, singing songs from the Santeria religion of Cuba, mambos, rancheras and guaguancos.
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