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La Belle Créole: January 2015 Book of the Month

January 2015 Book of the Month:

La Belle Créole: The Cuban Countess Who Captivated Havana, Madrid, and Paris by Alina García-Lapuerta

La Belle Créole by Alina García-Lapuerta

January 2015: Alina García-Lapuerta, author of La Belle Créole: The Cuban Countess Who Captivated Havana, Madrid, and Paris published by Chicago Review Press

Book of the Month Outside Links: Book Author Publisher


About the Book:

La Belle Créole | Alina García-Lapuerta

La Belle Créole: The Cuban Countess Who Captivated Havana, Madrid, and Paris

Chicago Review Press
By Alina García-Lapuerta
Published by Chicago Review Press
ISBN-13: 978-1613745366

Known for her beauty and angelic voice, Mercedes Santa Cruz y Montalvo, la Belle Créole, was a Cuban-born star of nineteenth-century Parisian society. She befriended aristocrats and artists alike, including Balzac, Baron de Rothschild, Rossini, and the opera diva La Malibran.

A daughter of the creole aristocracy, Mercedes led a tumultuous life, leaving her native Havana as a teenager to join her mother in the heart of Madrid’s elite society. As Napoleon swept Spain into the Peninsular War, Mercedes’ family remained at the center of the storm, and her marriage to French general Christophe-Antoine Merlin tied her fortunes to France. Arriving in Paris in the aftermath of the French defeat, she re-created her life, ultimately hosting the city’s premier musical salon.

Acknowledged as one of the greatest amateur sopranos of her day, she nurtured artistic careers and daringly paved the way for well-born singers to publicly perform in lavish philanthropic concerts. Beyond her musical renown, Mercedes achieved fame as a writer. Her memoirs and travel writings introduced European audiences to nineteenth-century Cuban society and contributed to the debate over slavery. Scholars still quote her descriptions of Havana life and recognize her as Cuba’s earliest female author.

Mercedes epitomized an unusually modern life, straddling cultures and celebrated on both sides of the Atlantic. Her memoirs, travel writings, and very personal correspondence serve as the basis for this first-ever English-language account of the passionate and adventuresome Belle Créole.

About the Author:

Alina García-Lapuerta

Alina García-Lapuerta

Born in Havana but raised from an early age in the United States, Alina García-Lapuerta shares a strong bond with her subject, Mercedes Santa Cruz y Montalvo, both through their mutual birthplace as well as through the experience of living across different cultures.

It was a passion for their common Cuban heritage which led Alina to her first glimpse of la Belle Créole in a beautifully illustrated book on Havana. Calling her a Cuban Scheherazade, the book described Mercedes holding court in a Havana palace in 1840. Other books on colonial Cuba intriguingly quoted from her Spanish-language work, Viaje a la Habana – at the time frustratingly out of print. Curious to know more about this mysterious Cuban-born star of nineteenth-century Parisian society, Alina searched for traces of this extraordinary life. What started as a simple inquiry ultimately transformed into a full-blown pursuit around the globe, rummaging in archives and libraries in the US, Cuba, Spain, France and England. The final result of this quest is the first full-length English-language biography of the Condesa de Merlin, la Belle Créole.

Alina graduated magna cum laude with a B.S. in International Economics from Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service, where she was elected to Phi Beta Kappa. She later received a master’s degree in international relations from Tufts University’s Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy and worked for a number of years in banking, both at Chase and the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston. Now based in London with her Spanish-American husband and their two children, she still spends considerable time in South Florida.

She is member of Biographers International Organization, The Biographers’ Club London as well as being a trustee of two medical research charities.

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