Synopsis by Mark Deming
Lupe Yoli was born in a small Cuban village in 1936; though she grew up in poverty, as a girl she discovered she had a natural talent for singing, and when she won a contest to meet popular vocalist Olga Guillot, she used the opportunity to land her first job performing on the radio. Adopting the stage name La Lupe, Yoli's wildly passionate performing style helped make her a star on the Cuban nightclub scene, but when Fidel Castro came to power, La Lupe fled to the United States, landing in New York City broke and unknown. That changed when Lupe met percussionist and bandleader Mongo Santamaria, who was a leading figure in the Latin Jazz scene in America. Santamaria took Lupe under his wing, added her to his show, and she became one of the brightest new stars on the Latin music circuit, recording an album with Santamaria in 1963. In 1964, La Lupe jumped ship to join Tito Puente's band, and they scored a major hit on the Latin music charts with "Que Te Pedi (What Did I Ask of You)"; for the next several years, Lupe and Puente enjoyed a successful partnership until she struck out on her own in 1968, becoming a top star in Spain, Mexico, Puerto Rico and Venezuela as well as the American Latin market. Filmmaker Ela Troyano offers a vivid portrait of a one-of-a-kind musician and personality in the documentary La Lupe: Queen on Latin Soul, which features vintage performance footage of the star, interviews with friends and colleagues, and her own testimonials from her later days as a Christian evangelist. La Lupe: Queen of Latin Soul received its world premiere at the 2007 Miami International Film Festival, and was later shown on PBS's documentary series Independent Lens.