By Bernice Sosa-Izquierdo
Menudo. Upon hearing the word, some may think of a traditional Mexican dish, while others may envision loose pocket change. Me? I think of the all Puerto Rican boy band created a year after my birth, exploding throughout Latin America, the Caribbean and the States in the 80’s. They were my first concert, my first huge crush, and the only ones (at that time) who I felt I could relate to. Back then, no one in the public eye had the power to bring me home. Their look, their sound, their feel were as familiar as the Flamboyan trees, Coquis, and piraguas de tamarindo I’d revisit every summer with my family. They were it for me, and no one could tell me they were missing a thing to make them perfect. Not until 1984, that is. I was only eight years old then, but I already owned several albums, buttons, posters, had been to that first concert and knew all my little brain could know about the group. But this year, was different. This year, Johnny (one of my favorite members) was replaced by none other than Nuyorican, Robert Edward Rosa Suárez, or Robby Rosa as we came to know him. He was raised in Ponce, but born in Long Island and bilingual, which was enough to label him as “el de alla fuera”. As a Nuyorican, even at such a young age, I completely identified with being the outsider to my island, to my people, to my family on the island. The love is always there, but you are reminded how you are not quite “authentic” enough and his joining the group helped validate that for me.
Fast forward throughout the years, Robby went on to star in “Salsa: The Motion Picture”, and formed the alternative rock band Maggie’s Dream. After going solo, the multi-instrumentalist, singer, songwriter, producer went on to create four albums: Vagabundo, Mad Love, Vino and Amor Vincit Omnia. The Grammy Award and Latin Grammy Award winner helped launch Ricky Martin’s career, globally, by writing and producing many well-known singles including “Living La Vida Loca” and “She Bangs”. Draco, as he has become known throughout the music industry, has also contributed to Puerto Rico’s arts and culture by sponsoring El Museo de Arte de Puerto Rico and Puerto Rico Museum of Contemporary Art, both located in Santurce, PR.
A few weeks ago, Draco was diagnosed with cancer: Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma (NHL) to be exact. “NHL is broadly divided into two major groups: B-cell lymphomas (which develop from abnormal B-lymphocytes, which is most common), and T-cell lymphomas (which develop from abnormal T-lymphocytes). Lymphocytes are a type of white blood cell that helps the body fight infections. B-cells develop into plasma cells that produce antibodies to fight infections, while T-cells attack foreign invaders (bacteria, viruses, etc.) directly. NHL can start in the lymph nodes, in a specialized lymphatic organ such as the spleen, or in lymph tissue found in organs such as the stomach or intestines. Since lymphocytes (white blood cells) can circulate to all parts of the body through the lymphatic vessels and bloodstream, abnormal lymphocytes can spread to any part of the body. While some NHLs are localized to one area, most are present in other parts of the body by the time the diagnosis is confirmed.” (http://www.lymphoma.org)
Cancer affects us all. News hit hard when a childhood friend of mine informed us she is, currently, battling Stage 4 Ovarian/Colon Cancer (http://www.cancer.gov/). This past March, Tanya went to have her gall bladder taken out only to have the surgeon remove a tumorous ovary, instead. Although most of the Cancer was removed, here, she is undergoing Chemotherapy to combat that which remains. Tanya was my neighbor growing up and a fellow die-hard Menudo fan. She was the only girl on my block I knew: strict parents + dangerous neighborhood = not many local friends. We had countless great talks throughout the years and share lots of memories. Through life’s twists and turns, we lost touch but have reconnected in recent years. It is wonderful to know we can still bond after so much time apart! I look forward to our children meeting. We have each had our share of hardships throughout our lives and I am proud of her for becoming such a hard working woman, college graduate, dedicated mother, grandmother, sister, cousin, aunt, and friend. She is a fighter, a survivor with a huge heart. I have faith my friend (and others affected) will overcome. Rezo por ellos: that their battles be short so they may rest easy and be free to just live, peacefully, once more.
Draco Rosa, Reza Por Mi (music video):
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