Cuba bid farewell last week to one of its foremost actors. Adria Santana left this world but her spirit and her passion will live on forever; she embodies what true art should always be: passion, commitment, will, eternal love. She is survived by her husband of over 40 years: her eternal beau, musician Pablo Menéndez and her son singer/songwriter Osamu Menéndez Santana and her grandchildren.
For almost 20 years Adria lived with breast cancer, which metastasized in her bones around 2 years ago, although even then she kept working and did some of her finest performances in films like Casa Vieja, Mañana, Brainstorm, Fabula etc. and t.v. series, t.v. specials, documentaries and theater festivals (including an incredibly successful performance of Estorino’s version of Medea in Sao Paulo, Brasil Teatre Festival) and an amazing interview (which maybe had more impact on the people of Cuba than everything else) on Amaury Perez’s t.v. showcalled “Con 2 que se quieren” (also on You Tube but with no English translation yet).
In January this year it metastasized in her brain and then her liver, lungs and central nervous system. After 3 months in the Havana Oncology hospital, last April, she came home and was with us for 5 months.
Thanks to the excellent work of her doctors, Dr. Rolando Camacho, Dr. Elias Gracia, Dr. Ariel, Dr. Juan Carlos and the whole team there, and the daily attention at home from our neighbor and sister Merceditas Caballero, and Adria’s innumerable true friends, neighbors and supportive family members, she lived very intensely these last 8 months because even at the hospital, she was very intensely alive. And now at last, our Adria is at rest.
She had five months at home to say goodby to her friends, her grandchildren and the rest of her/our family… five months during which she lived as intensely as only she could: during that time, she renewed her driver’s license (good for 10 years) and had meetings with t.v. directors to see if there were any short things she could work in; she attended our son Osamu’s big concert last July; birthday parties (her mother Cuca’s 93 last Sept. 8th (!), and her own, August 29th: she took us all out to a restaurant! ) …and even a theater event alongside her beloved directors Abelardo Estorino and Lester Hamlet. She had visits with her friends and told stories and laughed as only she could…
Her health only became worse this last week, and she was not in great pain or suffering. She was only in the hospital now for 3 nights before passing away in her sleep, in peace, with no pain and with me at her side.
We didn’t hold a wake or anything, because she didn’t want that.
On Friday, at 6:00 pm Havana time, we spread her ashes in the gardens, sometimes used as a theater stage, of the Adolfo Llauradó Salon, the Casona de Linea. A huge crowd of friends, family and her theater colleagues showed up in spite of the short notice. We played some of her t.v. specials and interviews on a big screen and spoke of our African heritage (like in New Orleans) where one mourns on the way to the last resting place, but celebrates life on the way back home. Her body now is part of the air we breathe in her city of Habana, and her ashes will fertilize flowers of the theater forever, where many times she worked.
Thanks for your support, your kindness, your love and your friendship.
We will never forget it.
Pablo and the entire family.
Only a month ago, Adria walked on stage for the last time, and was given a tremendous ovation by the audience, when she handed the Poplularity Prize to her great friend and colleague Paula Alí.