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Soraya Raquel Lamilla Cuevas




"Soraya's music is infinitely intimate and precious, crafted and executed with the love and care of an artisan. There are few complete artists, but Soraya is one of them -- a composer, guitarist, producer, arranger, and singer with a particularly emotive voice...

...Many will remember Soraya as a spokesperson, an educator, and a source of inspiration for so many people who battle cancer. Yet her most lasting legacy is the one she continues to transmit through her songs, her music, and her guitar."
-- Leila Cobo, Billboard Magazine.

Note:  The site has been down.  I've had site issues.  Parts of the site have still not been restored. Will attempt to that asap.


Soraya Lamilla's Legacy of Hope

When American-Colombian singer/songwriter Soraya (pronounced so-RYE-yah) walked out on stage at the April 7th 2005 “Selena Vive” tribute concert to the late Tejano singer Selena to sing “Dreaming of You” with New York singing group The Barrio Boyzz, I had no idea she was wearing a wig.

She sang beautiful. And she looked beautiful.

On August 21st 1992, Soraya lost her mother to breast cancer. Years earlier, her mother’s mother had also succumbed to breast cancer.

In 2000, she was confronted with another family tragedy. Her favorite aunt, her mother’s sister, was also dying from breast cancer.

It was while visiting her aunt in Columbia that Soraya discovered a lump on her own breast (because of her family history, Soraya did regular self-examinations).

When she got home, she immediately went to the doctor. The news was not good. Soraya had Stage 3 breast cancer. She was 31 years old.

Soraya’s music career was thriving. At the time her breast cancer appeared, she had released three albums (Soraya was one of the first artists to release albums both in Spanish and English  at the same time (along with Laura Pausini) so in actuality Soraya had made six albums). The title song of her first CD “On Nights Like This” was about her mother and the night she passed.

Soraya started chemotherapy treatments immediately.  Two weeks later, she received a call from Columbia. Her aunt had passed away.

Soraya says it was that moment she decided to stop asking herself “Why Me?” and start asking “How do I?”

Soraya Raquel Lamilla Cuevas Although she had always been a crusader for breast cancer awareness, she decided to take on a more active role. She contacted the Susan G. Komen Foundation, an association committed to raising awareness and finding a cure for breast cancer. Soraya became their “Latin Ambassador”.

Soon afterwards, she had a double mastectomy.

In her book, Soraya notes that “Hispanic women die from breast cancer at a greater rate than that of their Anglo counterparts”.

According to Soraya many Latin women are afraid to be diagnosed; many fearing their husbands will leave them if they lose their breasts.

She adds that some women believe that God will fix the problem … that it will go away if they leave it alone … that they can’t afford the cure or they “will die anyway, so why bother?”

She notes how some husbands refuse to allow their wives’ or daughters’ breasts to be examined by another man, even a physician.

And that some Latino women believe “that taking care of the problem would be putting their own care before the care of their family, which would go against every value they had been taught.”

It’s this ignorance that Soraya began to fight to change.

Through her battle with cancer Soraya says she found a new appreciation for life.

Drinking a glass of water became a divine experience for her. Simplicity, appreciation and gratitude were three words she repeated daily.

In 2003, feeling better and with a new record contract under her belt, she released her “fourth” CD the Grammy Award winning “Soraya” (once again in both English and Spanish). It contained her song “Casi” (Almost) which documented her struggle with cancer.

She even did some concerts, although at times she says she needed help fastening her guitar strap.
Soraya Raquel Lamilla Cuevas
Through her illness she discovered “the importance of living a life full of life right here and right now”.

“I believed in myself. Not in the person I used to be and not in the person I wished to be; I fell in love with who I was,” she said.

This new-found love inspired Soraya to write and record the song “No One Else” (Por Ser Quien Soy). She donated all the proceeds to breast cancer research.

In late 2004, she collapsed in extreme pain in her kitchen. She immediately went to her doctor. The news was devastating. The cancer had spread to her lungs and her liver.

She had been working hard on her fifth CD "El Otro Lado de Mi" (The Better Side of Me).

She made a decision not to announce this new cancer recurrence to her fans.

Her new CD was released in 2005. Soraya wrote (or co-wrote) all the songs, played multiple instruments (guitar, mandolin, coros, tiple, violin) and co-produced El Otro Lado de Mi.

While all her music is great, El Otro Lado de Mi is, in my opinion, her best CD. It’s Soraya’s Abbey Road. Beautiful music, Soraya’s beautiful voice, beautiful lyrics sung with passion. There would be no English equivalent of this CD.

In late 2005 as her condition deteriorated, Soraya retreated from the public eye. On May 7th 2006 her manager showed her the first typeset pages of the manuscript Soraya had recently completed.

Her book was published under the title “Con Las Cuerdas Rotas” (Broken Strings) in September of 2006 and “Soraya: A Life of Music, A Legacy of Hope” in September of 2007. (“Con Las Cuerdas Rotas” has since gone into its third printing and has broken records for a Spanish-language book. All proceeds were donated to breast cancer research.)

Soraya Raquel Lamilla Cuevas On May 9th, Soraya posted a goodbye letter to her fans on her website. She ended with a line from Almost/Casi: “When the only sound that breaks the silence is your beating heart, in between the pounding you will find who you are …”

On May 10th Soraya passed away. She was 37 years old.

Soraya was a beautiful woman. Her looks rival those of some of the most beautiful women in the world.

From reading her book, you also get a glimpse of the person she was inside. She loved life. She was a strong, driven, amazingly talented woman … full of promise, full of love, and full of hope.

When things don’t go my way, I think of Soraya – and the struggles she went through, the inconveniences she had to face – all in the hopes of giving herself a little more time.

Suddenly my problems don’t seem so large. And the smaller they get, the easier they are to face and conquer.

written by J.W. (T.J./webmaster) originally for AWAI's blog.

Click "play" above to listen to 1) No One Else; 2) A Message from Soraya 3) Por Ser Quien Soy & 4) Un mensaje de Soraya

"No One Else/Por Ser Quien Soy" is a beautiful song and captures the hope she felt for the future and the newly re-discovered love she found for herself as she battled this terrible disease:

No One Else

It came out of nowhere and shot through my heart
Time stood still as my world fell apart
Four simple words, turned me upside down
As my life was spinning, I reached for steady ground

With an army in my soul, soldiers of love, warriors of faith
Fighting a battle against the enemy with no face

I am breathing once again
Time has shown me the power of my strength
This journey is an ever-winding road
I will walk it proud, tall and strong
And as I’m standing face to face with myself
I thank the Lord I’m no one else

There were days filled with anger, and nights lost in tears
I searched for courage in spite of the fear
In the midst of the madness, I found a quiet space
simple moments, a tender embrace

I am breathing once again
Time has shown me the power of my strength
This journey is an ever-winding road
I will walk it proud, tall and strong
And as I’m standing face to face with myself
I thank the Lord I’m no one else

From a drop of compassion, flowed a river of love
I drank from its waters and swam through the flood
In my darkest hour, when I could barely see
I found the essence of a woman I never dreamed I could be

I am breathing once again
Time has shown me the power of my strength
This journey is an ever-winding road
I will walk it proud, tall and strong
And as I’m standing face to face with myself
As I’m standing face to face with myself, with myself. . .
I thank the Lord I’m no one else