The Most Famous Cubans and How They Made Their Name

Celia Cruz, 1957
Celia Cruz, 1957 | © Ibrahim Arce / WikiCommons
Jack Guy

Cuba might be a fairly small country, but it has produced a huge array of talent. Read on to find out more about some of the famous Cubans who have taken their culture around the world.

Celia Cruz

The most popular Latin musical artist of the 20th century was born in Havana, Cuba but spent most of her life in the United States. Wherever you go in Latin America, you are likely to hear some of her biggest hits such as “La Vida Es Un Carnaval” and “La Negra Tiene Tumbao.”

Yoel Romero

Born in 1977, athlete Yoel Romero is a professional mixed martial arts (MMA) fighter currently ranked number two in the world in the middleweight division. He has also won six world and Olympic medals as a freestyle wrestler, making him one of the best contemporary Cubans in combat sports.

Gloria Estefan

Another singer-songwriter born in Havana, Estefan shot to global fame in 1985 with the song “Conga.” She went on to win three Grammy Awards and has sold more than 100 million records around the world. Not bad at all.

Alicia Alonso

A former beauty queen, Alonso devoted her life to developing ballet in Cuba. She set up the Cuban National Ballet following the Revolution in 1959, and turned it into one of the most highly regarded ballet schools in the world.

Alicia Alonso (right) is the queen of Cuban ballet © GovernmentZA / flickr

Carlos Acosta

Another ballet dancer, Acosta developed his skills at Alonso’s Cuban National Ballet before joining the Royal Ballet in England in 1998. Since then he has spent most of his time in England, dancing with high-profile dance companies in Europe and North America.

Tamara Rojo and Carlos Acosta in Tzigane

Javier Sotomayor

High jumper Sotomayor is the current world record holder in his sport, and is the only person ever to have jumped 2.45 metres. He is widely regarded as the best high jumper ever, and his achievements have made him a household name in the athletics world as well as one of the most well-renowned Cubans.

Cuban high jumper Javier Sotomayor at the Beijing Olympics, 2008

Wilfredo Lam

Artist Lam was primarily a painter, although he did also work with sculpture, ceramics and printmaking. His work focused on Afro-Cuban culture, and it took him to global prominence. Lam has had exhibitions around the world, including at the Tate Modern in London in 2016.

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