UPDATED: Put Celia in the Smithsonian

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Twitter: @BarbotRobot

By voting here, you can help hang a portrait of La Reina de la Salsa in the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History. She’s up against a few other American notables – Fredrick Douglass, Samuel Morse, Alice Paul and Audie Murphy – as a candidate for a new work by photographic artist Robert Weingarten. As of my vote, Celia is already enjoying a pretty sizable lead, but every click counts.

Head over and vote for Celia. Or for whoever you want to vote for, I guess. The point is, you know, democracy. But could Audie Murphy get down like this?

UPDATE 5/29/12: Celia ended up with 67% of the vote! AZUCA’! Let’s see if they actually do the painting…

UPDATE 5/31/12: SHE WON!

The National Museum of American History’s blog has been updated with a piece on Cruz’s impact.

In the kitchen, it was KCOR: La Voz Mexicana en San Antonio. In the living room, the Spanish had a different accent and the music, a completely different sound. It was there that my Cuban father played his LPs. Somehow, he had made his way in the later 1950s from a tropical island to the middle of Texas, where no one but us it seemed ate black beans and lechon asado, or drank thick Cuban espresso coffee.

He was reluctant to talk about Cuba, a place he knew he’d never return to. So, I learned about Cuba from Celia Cruz. It was her image on many of the record album covers and her amazing voice that came from the record player. “Guántanamera” is probably the best known song, sometimes referred to as the Cuban anthem. It was popularized in the U.S. in 1966 by The Sandpipers, a folk rock group. (I have to admit, that when I was 5, I thought this was a song about a man named Juan from an island with palm trees and not about a woman from Guántanamo.)

If “Guántanamera” is the patriotic anthem, then the 1967 “Cuando salí de Cuba,” is the anthem of exiled Cubans. All Cubans know Celia Cruz’ version of this deeply melancholic song by Argentine Luis Aguilé—a song that says I can never die here for I left my heart buried in Cuba… it is waiting for me to return there.

It’s actually a really good piece. Read it. More important, however, is this piece.

But we still need your help! Weingarten constructs his unique layered images by allowing his subjects to identify places and things that are important in their lives. Using the form below, we ask for your input on what words you would use to describe what was most important in the life of Celia Cruz.

So head over, fill out the form, and help make this as awesome as it can be!