Singer. Born Gloria Fajardo on January 9, 1958, in Havana, Cuba. As a toddler Estefan fled Cuba with her family when Communist dictator Fidel Castro rose to power. Her father, José Manuel Fajardo, had been a Cuban soldier and bodyguard of President Fulgencio Batista. After coming to the United States, Fajardo was recruited into the 2506 Brigade, a Central Intelligence Agency-funded band of Cuban refugees that was involved in the unsuccessful 1961 Bay of Pigs invasion. After President John F. Kennedy negotiated the release of the captured soldiers, Fajardo rejoined his family. He eventually joined the U.S. Army and served for two years in Vietnam. As a child Estefan liked to write poetry, and though she took classical guitar lessons, she found them tedious. She had no inkling that she would some day become a popular music star, but music played a very important role for her as a teenager. After her father's return from Vietnam, he was diagnosed as having multiple sclerosis, possibly as a result of having been exposed to the herbicide Agent Orange while serving in the army. Estefan's mother, who had been a teacher in Cuba, worked to support the family during the day and attended school at night. Young Gloria was left to take care of her father and younger sister. She had little social life, and because she felt the weight of such responsibilities she turned to music as a release. "When my father was ill, music was my escape," Estefan told Washington Post reporter Richard Harrington. "I would lock myself up in my room for hours and just sing. I wouldn't cry--I refused to cry... Music was the only way I had to just let go, so I sang for fun and for emotional catharsis."
In 1975 Gloria met keyboardist Emilio Estefan, a sales manager for the rum dealer Bacardi who also led a band called the Miami Latin Boys. The band played popular Latin music, but because there was no lead singer, the quartet members took turns singing. A mutual friend asked Emilio to advise Gloria and some friends about organizing a band for a special event. Emilio heard Gloria sing, and when he met her again at a wedding at which the Miami Latin Boys were entertaining, he asked her to sit in with the band. A few weeks later Emilio asked Gloria to perform as lead singer with the band, and she accepted. At first Gloria sang only on weekends, because she was still attending the University of Miami.
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Gloria Estefan biography
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