"Come on everybody let's do the Conga, I knowyou can't control yourself any longer," sang Gloria Estefan in her 1985 hit song "Conga." Apparently she was right. No one could resist Estefan's Latin rhythm. She became world famous soon after therecord's release. But her journey to stardom had begun more than two decades earlier when she left Cuba for Miami.
Gloria Fajardo Estefan went to the United States in 1959 on a $21 flight from Havanato Miami. She and her family were Cuban refugees fleeing the island nation after Fidel Castro's communist dictatorship came to power. The family arrived with few material goods. Little did they knowthat one day Gloria would be a multiple Grammy award winner, sell more than 60 million records and become the planet's most successful performer in Latin music history.
Gloria Estefan was born inHavana in 1957 to Gloria Fajardo, a schoolteacher, and Jose Manuel Fajardo, a security officer for former Cuban President Fulgencio Batista. After arriving in Florida, Jose Fajardo and his family settledin a working class neighbourhood near The Orange Bowl, Miami's famous stadium. Jose returned to Cuba to serve as a tank commander in the unsuccessful 1961 Bay of Pigs invasion against Castro'scommunist government. He was captured, imprisoned in Havana and released in 1963. After returning to Miami, he joined the U.S. Army and was sent to Vietnam in 1967.
Gloria's father returned from Vietnama year later. Sadly, he was suffering from the effects of Agent Orange, a chemical that was widely used in Vietnam. He had developed multiple sclerosis. Gloria was only 11 at the time. She helpednurse, clean and feed him, until he was put in hospital in 1976. It was during this time that Gloria says she found comfort in her music, singing in her room. "Music healed me," she says.