Honduras is one of the poorest countries in Latin America whose problems are exacerbated further by high crime, corruption, and violence. Homicide violence reached a peak in Honduras in 2012 with an average of 20 homicides a day. For most of his life, Madison’s Rey Cruz has been a survivor of that Honduran violence and was very happy to make it the United States at the age of 16. But the singer/songwriter/producer/promoter didn’t go through all of that just to survive and to get by in America; his dream is to make a lasting impact through his life’s passion – music.

“My goal is to impact the world. I want to let the people know that we can make good music with positive ideas,” Cruz tells Madison365. “We can use music to make an impact.”

Cruz wants to make an impact in all of the musical styles that he loves – reggaeton, mambo, R&B, Trap/Hip-Hop/Rap, soul, salsa, merengue, Electro Latino, pop and more. In the Madison Latino community, Cruz is well known for his vocal performances and volunteering his services at major Latino events like the Centro Hispano’s Annual Banquet or the LUCES Annual Scholarship Banquet.

Rey Cruz takes a selfie with the LUCES Scholarship award winners July 21 at the Concourse Hotel.
Rey Cruz takes a selfie with the LUCES Scholarship award winners July 21 at the Concourse Hotel.

“In my music, I always keep focusing on the positive. My music is about community,” he says. “For Centro Hispano and for LUCES [Latinos United for College Education Scholarships], when I perform at their banquets I want everybody to know the reality of what is going on, I want to have a message and I want to make songs that impact their lives. I like to be unique.”

Cruz is the founder and CEO of La Industria Musical, whose mission is to help new artists become more well-known and popular inside and outside of their community by showing off and sharing their projects through a web of promotional sources.

“I’ve been promoting music on my pages from Mexico, Chile, Spain, El Salvador, Central America. I like to help give people the opportunity to move forward and to be heard by more people,” Cruz says. “What I’m trying to do with La Industria Musical is to reach other people and help other singers. In today’s music industry, there’s a lot of competition going on. I’m trying to move it forward.”

La Industrial Musical is hard work but as a very social person who is crazy about the music world, it’s something Cruz enjoys. “I’ve been working with my manager, Cesar Gonzalez, to create a plan. We have a pretty cool logo, I created it myself. It took a while,” Rey says, pointing at one of his custom-made La Industrial Musical shirts he is wearing. “Little by little, we are growing.”
Cruz spends a lot of his time promoting other Latino artists, but he is a singer, a songwriter, a composer, a producer and performer himself. “I like to think that I’m multi-talented, he says. “I love to share my talents with other people.”

Music has been an important part of his life since an early age way back in Honduras where he used to perform.

“My family is a musical family. My uncle is a pianist and a drummer. I’m a drummer, as well,” Cruz says. “I’m a singer, my uncle is a singer. He has been so influential to me.”

Cruz’s given name is Cristhian Hernandez and he was born in San Pedro Sula (Spanish pronunciation: [sam ˈpeðɾo ˈsula]), the capital of Cortés Department, Honduras. It is located in the northwest corner of the country in the Sula Valley. Yes, Honduras is dangerous but San Pedro Sula is particularly dangerous – it was the “murder capital of the world” until early 2016 when Caracas, Venezuela surpassed its homicide rate.

“It’s really hot in my hometown. My family is still there. I always talk to my grandma and tell her I want to come back,” Cruz says. “But apparently things are not well there because of all of the corruption.

“Honduras can be a very dangerous country and there are a lot of negative things,” Cruz adds. “But with my music, I try to stay positive. I talk more about love rather than sex and drugs and violence. That’s my impact. I want to give people hope and inspiration. I always like to have a message in my songs, too.”

Rey came to Madison at age 16 to join his mother and to escape the chaos of Honduras. “My mom is one of the greatest warriors. I really appreciate her. I’m really blessed to have her,” Cruz says.

(L-r) Rey Cruz with his brother, mother, sister and uncle
(L-r) Rey Cruz with his brother, mother, sister and uncle

As much as he loves Madison, he longs for delicious Honduran food that he just can’t seem to find here.

“Unfortunately, there’s no food traditional to my country around here,” Cruz laments. “I think in Chicago there are a few places. Possibly Milwaukee. I do really miss that.”

Food has been one small obstacle for Cruz to overcome who like most immigrants had to face down language, educational, economic, and cultural barriers.

“The immigrant struggle is real. Believe me. Not everybody is lucky to be able to do what they really want to be doing. Not everybody is able to make it,” Cruz says. “But once you are able to make it through, you realize what a struggle it was and what you just made it through and it makes you even more inspired moving forward.”

When Cruz came to the United States, he didn’t know any English. That was tough for him as a social human being who liked to intermingle. “It was really, really difficult to communicate with other people. I started reading the dictionary to learn English,” he laughs. “Friends would always ask me: ‘What are you doing with that big dictionary, bro?’ and I would tell them, ‘I’m learning!’ But it was really hard for me to meet people at first”

Today, Cruz works at the Guitar Center in Middleton as a sales associate on top of studying international business and marketing at Madison College. “I have one more year there and then I plan on attending UW-Whitewater to really expand on marketing and study international business, too,” Cruz says. “Originally, I wanted to be an engineer. It’s really fun and interesting. But I realized that I am more social than anybody else and that I would have a different path. And I wanted to be on stage performing for people, writing songs for different events that I had.

“By the time I graduate, I hope to have built up my business [La Industrial Musical] and I’m looking forward to keeping on building my business,” he adds.

Cristhian Hernandez (Rey Cruz) was inducted into The National Society of Leadership and Success earlier this month.
Cristhian Hernandez (Rey Cruz) was inducted into The National Society of Leadership and Success earlier this month.

Recently, Cruz was recently inducted into the National Society of Leadership and Success, the largest collegiate leadership honor society in the United States, with over 500 chapters and more than half a million members, who collectively have completed over 282,000 hours of community service.

Cruz is no stranger to awards, having won a Centro Hispano scholarship back in 2013 and a LUCES scholarship the following year. He has sung at Centro’s banquet numerous times including singing the Centro theme song “I Have a Dream” at last year’s banquet at Monona Terrace Community and Convention Center.

“In 2013, that was my first time singing at a banquet [for Centro Hispano],” Cruz remembers. “Since that time, I can tell you that the passion for what I’m doing has gotten even stronger. And becoming part of the LUCES family was amazing for me. It’s such an important program. When I became a LUCES scholar in 2014, I was so excited.

Rey Cruz receives his LUCES scholarship in 2014.
Rey Cruz receives his LUCES scholarship in 2014.

“Giving back to the community is very important to me and that is why I still volunteer for Centro and LUCES and other places,” he adds. “Being a part of these events is also really good because there are so many people you can connect to.”

His following is mostly Latino right now, but some day, Cruz says, that will change. “I’m looking to get a bigger audience. I do have a lot of Latinos following me, but I would love to have others, too,” he says. “It’s hard.

“My goal is to become a professional and to grow as my industry grows. I believe in my talent and what I can do,” Cruz adds. “But it’s also important for me to be strong in the community and to give back. I always tell students – whether they be Centro scholars or LUCES scholars or any other young people I meet – to do something they are passionate about. Don’t get stuck. Do something you really want to do. Don’t be afraid. It’s going to be very hard. It will be a struggle. But when you get through the struggle, it will be that much sweeter looking back.”