Stunningly beautiful and known for having the voice of an angel, Mercedes Santa Cruz y Montalvo was not just a pretty face on the Paris Social scene of the nineteenth-century. The parents of aristocrats, Mercedes was born in Havana, Cuba but as a teenager was moved to Europe to be with her long-absent parents. Mercedes was thrown into the tumultuous world of Napoleon’s Peninsular War in Spain. She married French General Christophe-Antoine Merlin and founded one of the premier salons in Paris. She befriended Balzac, Baron de Rothschild, Rossini, and opera diva La Malibran. Mercedes was a celebrated vocalist and is acknowledged as Cuba’s first female writer. If talent was a person, it would have been Mercedes Santa Cruz y Montalvo.
In her new book, La Belle Creole: The Cuban Countess Who Captivated Havana, Madrid and Paris, author Alina Garcia-Lapuerta describes the beauty of Havana and the wonders of Cuba so well it reads like poetry. The only thing as beautiful as Cuba is Mercedes, and her exploits run through the pages of the biography. Garcia-Lapuerta deftly describes the fascinating life of a celebrated woman and reminds us of her stunning existence.
La Belle Creole: The Cuban Countess Who Captivated Havana, Madrid and Paris is now available from Chicago Review Press.