My mother, who was born in 1917, always said, “Even when she was a child, she was a woman.” For people of my generation, who began adolescence by learning how to be anti-imperialists, we had already been conditioned to think of her as something akin to a Broadway star, alien to our cultural roots. For my son, who was born in 1995, everything she did just seemed really cool.
Against all odds, Rosalia Lourdes Elisa Palet Banavia was born in New York on February 11, 1923. She cultivated a legion of admirers who knew her simply as “Rosita.” Whether she was singing, acting or dancing, their devotion to her was the same. She did everything well but her professionalism was hardly a God-given talent. It was something that can only be achieved through hard work.
On television she performed in operettas, zarzuelas, comedies, musical shows, soap operas, short stories, and plays. She left an extensive body work on stage and film but it was among her fellow countrymen that she left her deepest mark.
She served as a model for thousands of girls who tried to make themselves more attractive by imitating the way she looked and smiled. Her critics noted a certain exaggeration in her bows to the audience at the end of a perfomance but, unlike other divas who came later, she never craved power.
Rosita Fornés shone brightly in a constellation of stars during a time when television was becoming part of Cuban family life. The names of those leading men with booming voices and the actresses who broke their hearts are remembered today only by the very old. Rosita defied time and enjoyed the longest artistic career to which one can aspire.
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