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Latina Legends

Charo

(Spain, 1951– )
Singer, dancer, actress, comedienne, and award-winning classical guitarist of worldwide fame, Charo’s album Guitar Passion won the 1995 Pop Album of the Year (female artist) at the Billboard International Latin Music Conference.

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“I was born in Murcia, Spain, where the beautiful sound of the guitars flows with the winds all the time. At night, these breathtaking melodies serenade everybody and the babies go to sleep listening to these sounds like lullabies. And that is why, all my life, I felt passion for the guitar.”

~Charo

When Charo was three years old, she had a puppy named Cuchillo that wiggled when he was happy. She copied him and would say “como cuchi, como cuchi.” People would give her cookies and candies because they thought she was cute.

She became a singer, dancer, actress, comedienne, and award-winning classical guitarist who trained under Andres Segovia. As an adult, saying “cuchi, cuchi” and adding her infamous wiggle became her trademark as she performed throughout the world.

It was her sense of humor and use of “Spanglish” that brought Charo international fame. She became a darling of variety shows and appeared in situation comedies as well. A favorite of Johnny Carson on The Tonight Show, she performed there often.

Born María Rosario Pilar Martínez Molina Baeza in Murcia, Spain, she was nicknamed Charo when she was just a child. The name and persona stuck throughout her professional career. Discovered by bandleader and musician Xavier Cugat, they married and moved to the United States to launch her career.

Taking her passion for Latin music on the road, she sang in both Spanish and English and had a comedic flair performing live at casinos, fairs, and nightclubs around the country, especially in Las Vegas. Celebrating the beauty of classical Spanish guitar music and dance, she delighted audiences for decades onstage, in television, and in movies.

She was also lauded for her serious dramatic roles when she appeared on the television show Fantasy Island from 1978 to 1984, which starred Ricardo Montalban. Other television appearances include The Carol Burnett Show, The Bob Hope Special, Chico and the Man, The Jeffersons, The Love Boat, The Sonny and Cher Show, Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In, Hollywood Squares, That ’70s Show, The Wayne Brady Show, and The Today Show.

She appeared in the movies Airport ’79 (1979) and Moon Over Parador (1988). Alongside Elvis, she appeared in the docu-film Elvis: That’s the Way It Is in 1970.

Her CD release, Guitar Passion, won the 1995 Pop Album of the Year (female artist) at the Billboard International Latin Music Conference. Other releases include Gusto, Cuchi-Cuchi (Charo with the Salsoul Orchestra), and Olé, Olé.

After her second marriage with Hollywood producer Kjell Rasten, they moved to Hawaii where she performed regularly at the Outrigger Hotel and opened a restaurant while raising her son. She is a winner of Billboard magazine’s Female Latin Performer of the Year.

Excerpt from: THE BOOK OF LATINA WOMEN: 150 VIDAS OF PASSION, STRENGTH, AND SUCCESS By Sylvia Mendoza

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