We Found Something Better
AS TOLD BY FRANCIS DEL ROSARIO DE PÁEZ
In 1988 my brothers and I, along with other musical groups, performed before thousands of spectators in New York City’s Madison Square Garden. Our group, which featured my dancing, received an enthusiastic reception. Years earlier, Father had taken steps to make our success possible.
A MUSICIAN himself, my father observed that my seven older brothers had musical talent. So he sold our house and bought musical instruments and the equipment necessary to help them form a musical group. I was then only a child, having been born a few years earlier in 1966. At the time, our family lived in the town of Higüey in the Dominican Republic.
My brothers’ first musical performance was in 1978 at the Higüey town hall. Later they established themselves in the capital, Santo Domingo. They began to play and sing an innovative style of merengue and, as a result, enjoyed widespread popularity.a The group became known as Los Hermanos Rosario (The Rosario Brothers).
Since I had long dreamed of being a famous dancer, I wanted to join my brothers. At a party my brother Pepe, who was the leader of the group, invited me to perform, saying: “Francis is one of my little sisters, the youngest, and she knows how to dance.” My dancing impressed those present. Taking advantage of the opportunity, I told Pepe I wanted to dance in front of the group. So at age 16 I began dancing at all performances of Los Hermanos Rosario.
Prior to this, there had been female vocalists with merengue groups but never a woman dancing at center stage before an ensemble of men. I choreographed all my moves, using a new dance style to accompany our merengue arrangements. Once my dance technique became well-known, it was called a lo Francis Rosario.
We had a merengue song called “Cumandé,” in which part of the lyrics were: “Y ahora todo el mundo como Francis Rosario” (And now everyone do like Francis Rosario). People would then imitate my dance style. Sometimes they just sat on the floor to watch me rather than dance themselves. Eventually, all that was used to advertise a performance of our group was a photo of me. Everyone knew it meant that Los Hermanos Rosario would be giving a concert.
After I started performing with my brothers, other musicians were added to the group, including three brothers with the last name Páez. One of them, a trumpet player named Roberto, later became my husband. The Páez brothers started sharing in the success of the group. Los Hermanos Rosario began receiving many invitations to perform on television in Santo Domingo, as well as to give concerts in other countries.
In 1988 we went on tour in the United States and Canada. One of our performances was the previously mentioned one in Madison Square Garden. Many of the most popular merengue groups participated there, and our group was the best received. After that performance, concert promoters always presented us as the last act of a program. More than ever, my dancing was getting attention and the fan base for Los Hermanos Rosario was widening. Sales of our recordings were also increasing dramatically.
We traveled widely, visiting Colombia, Ecuador, Panama, Puerto Rico, Curaçao, Spain, Germany, and other countries. Soon we became one of the most widely acclaimed musical groups in the Latin world. The dance, the stage, the costumes, and the makeup all became the most important things in my life.
When I was single, I used to say that if a man became interested in me but did not like to dance, I would leave him before I would leave dancing. However, my attitude regarding my priorities in life was about to change.
This change began when we were on tour in the Canary Islands in 1991. Roberto and I had recently married. His brother Freddy, who also performed with the group, had begun studying the Bible with Jehovah’s Witnesses and always had their publications with him.
One day I saw the book You Can Live Forever in Paradise on Earth in Freddy’s room, and I began to look through it. I was captivated by the chapter “What Kind of Place Is Hell?” It caught my attention because Mother had said that a person who had done bad things would burn in hell. So I was afraid of going there.
A few weeks later, while we were still in the Canary Islands, I had a miscarriage. When they took me to the hospital, I told Roberto to ask Freddy for the book I had seen in his room. I wanted to read it while recovering. I loved the book. Among other things, I learned that the Bible hell is simply the common grave of mankind and that it never came into God’s heart to torture anyone. (Jeremiah 7:31) It impressed me that the Bible teaches that the dead are not conscious of anything at all.—Ecclesiastes 9:5, 10.
When we returned to the Dominican Republic, Freddy sent one of Jehovah’s Witnesses to visit us. He shared with us the Bible hope of eternal life on a paradise earth, and this also sparked my husband’s interest. (Psalm 37:29; Luke 23:43) We requested a Bible study.
Change in Values and Priorities
As I progressed in Bible knowledge, my point of view about the work that I loved so much began to change. Bible principles started molding my thinking. (Romans 12:2) I would ask myself: ‘How can I dance here in this way with all these people watching me? This is not what I want.’ I prayed to God, “Please get me out of this situation.” I talked to my husband about my feelings, and he felt similarly. “Be patient, Sweetheart,” he said. “You leave the group first, and I will follow afterward.”
I became pregnant again, and since that limited my dancing anyway, I was free to attend Christian meetings at the Kingdom Hall more often. These strengthened me, as they did Roberto, who also attended, causing us to appreciate the great value of gathering together with Jehovah’s people. We understood that to continue progressing in the way of Bible truth, we needed the instruction and encouragement that Christian meetings provide. (Hebrews 10:24, 25) Even when we worked outside the Dominican Republic, Roberto and I looked for a Kingdom Hall and attended the meetings.
After I gave birth, I returned to work, but my heart was no longer in it. The change became obvious, and the press began to criticize me. I was often asked, “Why don’t you dance the way you used to?” I kept praying to Jehovah to show me a way out so that I wouldn’t have any difficulties with my brothers. I had become one of the owners of the group, and I did not want to have a confrontation with them.
When I got pregnant again, I told Rafa, who directed the group after the death of our brother Pepe, that I wanted to spend more time with the children and would not be coming back to work. He told me to do what I thought best. None of my brothers ever opposed my studying the Bible. For this I am very thankful.
A New Life Serving Jehovah
In 1993, after ten years with the group, I ended my dancing career and dedicated myself unreservedly to Jehovah. I became a publisher of the good news of God’s Kingdom, and after Roberto left the group, we were baptized in 1994. (Matthew 24:14) Both Freddy and Roberto’s other brother, Julio, became Witnesses, as did Manuel Pérez, another member of the group. To this day they are all serving Jehovah faithfully.
Many people did not understand why I left the entertainment business, since I had enjoyed my work so much. Some felt, as did a well-known television producer in our country, that I was simply passing through a phase. “Like all of the other artists, she’ll get over this and return to the group,” he predicted. But that never happened. I was determined to devote myself as fully as possible to serving Jehovah.
We now have three children: Katty, Roberto, and Obed. We try to teach them that the most important things in life are spiritual and not material. We are in a good position to warn them of the world’s misleading influence and to give them sound guidance in life. Our weekly family Bible study has been very beneficial, helping us to stay united in a world where families are becoming more and more divided.
We have tried to teach our children to see Jehovah as a real person whom they can trust. (Proverbs 3:5, 6; Hebrews 11:27) We have also shown them the importance of attending and participating in Christian meetings. Seeing our children grow in the way of Bible truth is a priceless gift. For the last two years, I have served as an auxiliary pioneer, a term Jehovah’s Witnesses use for those who spend 50 hours or more each month sharing their Bible-based beliefs with others. And for years now my husband has served as an elder in the Christian congregation.
I still consider the merengue a beautiful dance form. But unfortunately, much of the merengue popular today is very different from what it was some time back. In general, it used to be wholesome. Now, in order to find acceptable merengue music, we have to be very selective.
The Superiority of Serving Jehovah
The world offers many things, but one must look at what is behind it all. This is true regarding the music industry, which on the surface can appear very attractive and harmless. Yet, it isn’t. Many connected with the industry are involved in drugs and immorality. Performing in a show puts one in association with people who believe in living for the moment and who have no conscience whatsoever.—1 Corinthians 15:33.
We have come to appreciate that the best thing anyone can do is serve Jehovah. I remember returning to the hotel after one of our biggest performances and feeling so empty. I now realize that it was because we were not satisfying our most important need, our spiritual need.—Matthew 5:3.
Our focus in life now is on pleasing our Creator, especially by preaching and teaching the good news of his Kingdom. (Matthew 24:14; Acts 20:35) Doing this leaves our family feeling happy and satisfied. We are truly grateful to be among God’s people and to have genuine friends—brothers and sisters in the faith—with whom we share the marvelous hope of everlasting life in God’s new world.—Mark 10:29, 30; 2 Peter 3:13; Revelation 21:3, 4.
We were well rewarded financially in the world of entertainment. But by getting to know our God, Jehovah, we have found spiritual riches that are worth far more than any material wealth. We are so happy to be able to serve a God of purpose, a happy God who invites us to trust in him! (Psalm 37:3) We are absolutely convinced that we have found something far better than fame and material wealth, and we pray that Jehovah will help us and our family to do his will forever.
a Merengue is dance music in 2/4 time. In its traditional form, a small group of musicians would play merengue on the accordion, the guiro (a metal scraper), and the tambora (a small double-headed drum). As time went by, larger groups (also known as orquestas in the Dominican Republic) were formed. Currently, many merengue groups employ a keyboard, saxophones, trumpets, and conga drums, as well as other instruments.
[Picture on page 21]
With other members of the group early in my career
[Picture on page 21]
Performing in New York City, about 1990
[Picture on page 23]
In front of the Kingdom Hall
[Picture on page 23]
Inset: During a family Bible study