Drawing on her Cuban roots, Gloria Estefan has been largely responsible for introducing Latin rhythms into American pop music. Born Gloria Fajardo on September 1, 1958, she left Cuba with her family the following year when Fidel Castro came to power. Her father, José, had been a bodyguard for the wife of the former president, Fulgencio Batista. After the Fajardos were settled in Miami, Florida, José was recruited for the CIA’s Bay of Pigs operation in Cuba, where he was captured and imprisoned for a year and a half. Further casting a pall on Gloria’s youth, José Fajardo was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis several years after his release. While her mother worked to support the family, Gloria was in charge of caring for her father and younger sister. Burdened by her respon sibilities, she found her only escape in listening and singing to records.
In 1975 she met Emilio Estefan, a keyboardist who headed a local band called Miami Latin Boys. Soon after, she joined the band as the lead singer, performing on the weekends while attending the University of Miami. Somewhat plump and very shy, Gloria slowly gained con?dence onstage, in large part because of Emilio’s encouragement. After she graduated from college, Gloria and Emilio married on September 1, 1978. Two years later, their son Nayib was born. In 1980 Emilio left his day job to become a fulltime manager of the band, by then renamed the Miami Sound Machine. He secured a contract with the Hispanic division of CBS Records, and the group recorded four successful Spanish-language albums. Although they had hits in Spanish-speaking countries around the world, the Miami Sound Machine made little headway in the United States.
Wanting to promote the group in the lucrative American market, CBS encouraged the band to write and sing songs in English. One of their ?rst, “Conga,” became a crossover hit, making an appearance on the pop, dance, black, and Latin charts. The band followed up with the all-English albums Primitive Love (1985) and Let It Loose (1987). Specializing in dance songs with a Latin beat, they had hits with “Bad Boys,” “Words Get in the Way,” “Rhythm Is Gonna Get You,” and “1-2-3.” Internal disagreements led several band members to leave the group, which allowed Estefan to play an increasingly important role as the frontwoman. Recognizing the public’s affection for Estefan, the group’s billing changed ?rst to Gloria Estefan and the Miami Sound Machine, then simply to Gloria Estefan. By the late 1980s, Estefan had also started singing more of the ballads she loved and fewer of the dance tunes that had made her a star.
Estefan promoted her records with constant touring, until March 20, 1990, when a tractor trailer collided with her tour bus. Estefan’s back was broken in the accident. After a four-hour operation, in which steel rods were embedded along her spine, it was unclear whether or not she would be con?ned to a wheelchair. During her long recuperation, Estefan received an enormous outpouring of support from her fans. To the surprise of her doctors, after a year of physical therapy she made a complete recovery. In March 1991 she was once again able to set out on tour to market her album Into the Light. Estefan remained remarkably prolific during the 1990s. She returned to recording in Spanish with the acclaimed Mi Tierra (1993); produced an album of covers titled Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me (1994); and reexplored heavily produced dance tracks with Gloria! (1998). Amidst her heavy recording schedule, she took off time to have a second child, Emily Marie, in 1994.
Driven by a need to experiment with new gen res, Estefan released Alma Caribena, an exploration of Afro-Caribbean music, in 2000. In addition, she began an acting career, making her movie debut as a grade-school teacher in Music of the Heart (1999) opposite MERYL STREEP . Estefan also appeared in the HBO ?lm For Love or Country: The Arturo Sandoval Story (2000), which told the true story of a jazz musician’s efforts to leave Cuba to achieve creative freedom.
Throughout her career, Estefan has helped to push Latin music into the American mainstream. In 1994, she became the ?rst artist to sing a song in Spanish at the Grammy Awards. Six years later, she cohosted the ?rst Latin Grammy Awards ceremony in Los Angeles.
Unafraid of entering the political realm, Estefan has drawn criticism for her support of Cuban-based artists and for visiting the Miami family of Elián Gonzáles, who sought to keep the boy in the United States against the wishes of his Cuban father. Her outspokenness has made her the United States’s highest-pro?le representative of the Cuban American community. Many Cuban Americans hold her in high regard as the embodiment of their American dream. Still a resident of Miami, Estefan is affectionately known in her hometown as “nuestra Glorita”—our Gloria.
- Club Med (1986)
- The Hypnotic World of Paul McKenna (1993)
- Music of the Heart (1999)
- Little Angelita (voice narrator) (2000)
- Frasier (2000)
- For Love or Country: The Arturo Sandoval Story (2000)
- Famous Documentary (2003)
- A Capitol Fourth (2005)
- 90 Millas Documentary (2007)
- Marley & Me (2008) Cameo appareance as herself
- Homecoming Concert (1989)
- Evolution (1990)
- Coming Out Of The Dark (1991)
- Into The Light World Tour (1992)
- Everlasting Gloria! (1995)
- The Evolution Tour Live In Miami (1996)
- Don't Stop (1998)
- Que siga la tradición (2001)
- Live In Atlantis (2002)
- Famous (2003) (Video journal about making-of Unwrapped LP; included in CD package)
- Live & Unwrapped (2004)
- The Magically Mysterious Adventures of Noelle the Bulldog (2005)
- Noelle's Treasure Tale: A New Magically Mysterious Adventure (2006)
- Estefan's Kitchen (2008)
Gloria Estefan - Discography
Year Title1989 Cuts Both Ways
1991 Into the Light
1993 Mi Tierra
1994 Hold Me Thrill Me Kiss Me
1995 Abriendo Puertas
2000 Alma Caribena
2007 90 Millas
Year Title1993 Christmas Through Your Eyes
1993 Twelve Inch Mixes
1998 Party Time!
2004 Unwrapped: Remixes
Year Title1990 Exitos de Gloria Estefan
1992 Gloria Estefan Greatest Hits
1997 Best of Gloria Estefan
2001 Greatest Hits Vol. II
2004 Amor y Suerte: Exitos Romanticos
2006 Oye Mi Canto!: Los Grandes Exitos
2006 The Very Best of Gloria Estefan
2006 The Essential Gloria Estefan
2007 iTunes Originals
Miami Sound Machine - Discography
Year Title1977 Renacer/Live Again
1978 Miami Sound Machine
1981 Otra Vez
1984 A Toda Maquina
1984 Eyes Of Innocence
1985 Primitive Love
1987 Let it Loose a.k.a. Anything For You
Year Title1988 12" Mixes
1989 The Best Remixes
Year Title1983 Lo Mejor de Miami Sound Machine