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Widower keeps Cruz's Cuban dream alive

NEW YORK — NEW YORK - Her beloved Cuba may yet be the final resting place for Celia Cruz.

The salsa legend's husband, Pedro Knight, said he dreams of someday taking his wife's remains from the Bronx to the island she fled when Fidel Castro seized power in 1960.

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"I would take her home to be buried next to her mother," Knight said. "That's what she always wanted."

Surrounded by loved ones, Cruz died of cancer last month at age 77. Her death set off waves of grief in New York and Miami, where hundreds of thousands of fans flocked to memorials for the flamboyant singer who recorded more than 70 albums in a career that spanned nearly six decades.

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But the response from her homeland was stony silence. "Cuba ignored her," Knight said.

Cruz had been living in New York for two years when her mother died in Cuba in 1962. Castro did not allow her to attend the funeral.

She vowed not to return while he was in power.

As the one-month mark of Cruz's death passes, Knight is slowly adjusting to life without his friend, companion and cook of 41 years.

"It's difficult," he said. "She always took care of me."

Cruz, whose posthumous album Regalo del Alma was the No. 1 Latin seller last week according to Billboard, was stricken with cancer six months before she died.

Two days before her death, with Cruz barely conscious in their Fort Lee, N.J., home, the couple (they met when she was a singer and he was a trumpet player in the Cuban band La Sonora Matancera) marked their wedding anniversary with a touching final moment.

"I told her, 'Negra, today we've reached 41 years of marriage,'" Knight said, "and one huge tear rolled down her face."

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Knight also signed off on a movie project in which Whoopi Goldberg would play Cruz.

"People ask why an American actress, and not a Cuban?" he said. "Well, she came up with the idea. And she can pull it off - she's a complete actress."

Knight said he plans to stay in the Fort Lee penthouse. "The day she got out of the hospital in April, we sat to look at the river and she said, 'Pedro, isn't my little house beautiful?'" he said.

"That's stuck with me, so that's where I'm staying."


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