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Cuban Music Lesson: Olga Guillot

Get ready to be schooled, asere. It’s time for a Cuban music lesson! Learn to tell your cha cha cha from your mambo without leaving your couch. Put on your dancing shoes, guayaberas, park your 57 Chevy, light up that Habano, and pay attention.

One stereotype that’s definitely true about we Latinos is that we are hopeless romantics. We’re so passionate, that people dying or killing for love is not uncommon. Cubans are really passionate. Do not underestimate the part that overblown emotion has played in the whole anti-Castro embargo thing. A music style that we inherited from Spain that perfectly communicates this romantic nature is the bolero. No one did it better than «The Queen of the Bolero», Olga Guillot.

Olga was born in 1922 in the «City of Musicians», Santiago de Cuba. As a child, she and her family moved to Havana, where she and her little sister Ana Luisa started performing as Las Hermanitas Guillot while still in their teens. Olga had one of the best voices in Cuban history. Period. It was sweet, melodious, and rich, perfectly suited to the bolero. She hit it big in 1945 when she teamed up with the famous singer and bandleader Miguelito Valdez. Olga began touring all over the world during the heyday of Cuban music’s international fame. She even sang with the great French singer Edith Piaf. In 1961, like a lot of Cuban stars including her good friend Celia Cruz, she left Cuba. You know…Castro. Olga settled in Mexico where she was already super popular.

Olga would continue to perform all over the world for the next 50 years. During her career she released a ridiculous 50 albums! She stayed in Mexico as part of the Cuban exile community. She was even the godmother to legendary singer Jose Jose. She maintained a very close relationship with Celia and performed at her funeral in 2003. She sang up until her death in 2010, when thousands of people showed up for her funeral. A lot of people exist because their parents were listening to Olga’s sultry songs.

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