Celia Maldonado, a Crucian cultural icon who founded the St. Croix Majorettes, died Thursday at the Juan F. Luis Memorial Hospital. She was 78.
Maldonado, affectionately known as "Cielo," founded the St. Croix Majorettes in 1974. Since then, thousands of Crucian girls have gone through the program, marching in parades throughout the Caribbean and as far north as Washington D.C.
Delegate to Congress Donna Christensen on Sunday extended her condolences to the Maldonado family, noting that she had a longstanding relationship with the Majorettes’ founder.
“Celia had been my patient, and her mother before her, so I have a long history with Celia and her sister, Mirta,” Christensen said. “A long line of children in my family, down to my grandchildren, have proudly been majorettes under her tutelage. Celia Maldonado leaves a legacy in all children whose lives she touched and while we mourn her loss, we treasure her memory.”
Saturday, Gov. John deJongh Jr. lauded Maldonado’s dedication to mentoring young girls community.
“The St. Croix Majorettes is an organization that remains very influential in the physical, social and mental development of young women of all ages on St. Croix,” deJongh said.
As a result of her work with the majorettes, there are many families with multiple generations who have participated and continue to be involved in the St. Croix Majorettes, the governor noted.
“Mrs. Maldonado has contributed in excess of 30 years of service to the youth of the community; promoted Virgin Islands culture through arts; exposed youth to other cultures and enhanced their development by securing funding for the St. Croix Majorettes travel to many Caribbean Islands and U.S. mainland cities to perform at various celebrations," he said. "It was a fitting tribute when she was recognized by the Virgin Islands Legislature in 1982 for her many contributions to the youth of St. Croix."
In 2009, Christensen honored Maldonado in a speech on the floor of the House of Representatives, shedding light on the organization’s roots and Maldonado’s impact on the U.S. Virgin Islands.
"In 1974, when her young daughter expressed interest in becoming a majorette, Cielo, finding that there were not any viable groups for her to join on St. Croix, took it upon herself, with the help of like-minded friends, to found the St. Croix Majorettes, an organization which has stood the test of time in providing a positive outlet for St. Croix’s youth to develop their performing talent," the congresswoman noted.
"As the story is told, with the purchase of a baton and the help of her sister Mirta L. Martinez, it all began," Christensen continued. "The St. Croix Majorettes was organized in May 1974 with Celia T. Maldonado as director and Mirta L. Martinez and Maria Cotto as co-directors. These ladies were assisted by the late Miguel Duchesne.
"The local majorettes started with 20 girls practicing at the Canegata Ball Park. Within two months, and with the help of the Doc James Radio Talk Show, parents were encouraged to register their children and this led to an increase of 150 active participants. In 1975, the St. Croix Majorettes and Marching Band were officially inducted into the Majorettes and Band Federation of Puerto Rico. The organization grew and eventually, Cielo and the St. Croix Majorettes, was responsible for hosting the first majorette festival on St. Croix. Seven groups came from Puerto Rico and one from St. Thomas to participate in the VIPR Friendship Day celebrations.
"Under the leadership of Cielo, the St. Croix Majorettes have been invited to and have participated in numerous festivities on the U.S. mainland and Caribbean islands, representing St. Croix in a dignified and diligent manner.
"After 30 three years, Celia T. Maldonado, director of the St. Croix Majorettes, has over 300 members who are still performing whenever they are called upon to do so," Christensen said in her 2009 tribute.