Not only different from everyday topics, but different because the book does not deal with the horrific Communist Revolution.
The book, La Belle Créole: The Cuban Countess Who Captivated Havana, Madrid, and Paris, is about the life of a Cuban lady of aristocratic background who was a contemporary of George Washington, Napoleon Bonaparte, and many illustrious writers who in turn wrote about her.
Her name was Mercedes Santa Cruz y Montalvo. Mercedes was raised by her grandmother in Cuba, moved to Spain where her parents were involved with the royal court, married a general almost twenty years her senior, and then things got interesting, in the form of the Napoleonic wars.
The beautiful child whose school education was mostly ignored grew up to be a most resourceful woman who became a writer and hosted some of the brightest authors of her time. One of them, Alexandre Dumas, had Mercedes herself appear as a character in his novel Pauline. Aristocrat, wife, mother, hostess, opera singer, writer, and traveler, she was also one of the celebrities of her time.
Note that the term Créole of the title refers to a person who was born outside of the country holding a kingdom, and is not a racial term; Mercedes was born in Cuba, which belonged to Spain, hence she was a Créole. As her fame increased, she was nicknamed the Beautiful Créole (La Belle Créole).
Author Alina García-Lapuerta brings to life an extraordinary woman. García-Lapuerta’s skills as researcher and writer shine in a book that illuminates a period of history most of us never hear anything about. Silvio Canto and I had the pleasure of talking to her about this most interesting character, whose life reads like a novel. You can listen to the podcast here.
Fausta Rodriguez Wertz writes on U.S. and Latin America politics, news and culture at Fausta’s Blog.