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

By Alina García-Lapuerta

Known for her good looks and angelic voice, Mercedes Santa Cruz y Montalvo, l. a. Belle Créole, used to be a Cuban-born superstar of nineteenth-century Parisian society. She befriended aristocrats and artists alike, together with Balzac, Baron de Rothschild, Rossini, and the opera diva l. a. Malibran.


A daughter of the creole aristocracy, Mercedes led a tumultuous existence, leaving her local Havana as to hitch her mom within the center of Madrid’s elite society. As Napoleon swept Spain into the Peninsular conflict, Mercedes’ kinfolk remained on the heart of the typhoon, and her marriage to French basic Christophe-Antoine Merlin tied her fortunes to France. Arriving in Paris within the aftermath of the French defeat, she re-created her lifestyles, finally web hosting the city’s ultimate musical salon. said as one of many maximum beginner sopranos of her day, she nurtured creative careers and daringly lead the way for well-born singers to publicly practice in lavish philanthropic concert events. past her musical renown, Mercedes completed repute as a author. Her memoirs and go back and forth writings brought ecu audiences to nineteenth-century Cuban society and contributed to the talk over slavery. students nonetheless quote her descriptions of Havana existence and realize her as Cuba’s earliest woman writer.


Mercedes epitomized an surprisingly sleek existence, straddling cultures and celebrated on each side of the Atlantic. Her memoirs, go back and forth writings, and intensely own correspondence function the foundation for this first-ever English-language biography of the passionate and adventuresome Belle Créole.

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A Cuban Convent within the Age of Enlightenment: The Observant Franciscan group of Santa Clara of Havana 1768—1808. ” The Americas fifty seven, no. three (January 2001): 309—327. Cornide, María Teresa. De l. a. Habana, de Siglos y de Familias. Habana: Editorial de Ciencias Sociales, 2008. Custine, Astolphe de, Marquis. Empire of the Czar: A trip via everlasting Russia (La Russie en 1839). manhattan: Doubleday, 1989. _____. L’Espagne sous Ferdinand VII. four vols. Paris: Ladvocat, 1838. Cuza Male, Belkis. “Viaje a l. a. Habana: l. a. Condesa de Merlin.

A pecuniary concentration occasionally ended in awkward occasions concerning shut associates and family members. whereas it used to be completely common in Havana to have company dealings in the small circle of landowners, those exchanges frequently generated disputes, specially with inheritance and estate rights. On best of that, Joaquín’s internal restlessness turns out to have brought on unforeseen conflicts in his company existence. In April 1801 Joaquín got one other sugar mill, Jesús Nazareno, from his brother-in-law, Rafael Montalvo, for 2 hundred thousand pesos.

The subject cut up opinion in Europe, amazing as regards to domestic in France, which nonetheless allowed slavery in its colonies. the following Mercedes entered right into a essentially masculine setting now not formerly broached via a Cuban lady. She wrote an essay addressed to Baron Charles Dupin, a popular mathematician and member of the higher Chamber. Its booklet, on June 1, 1841, within the Revue des Deux Mondes, less than the name “Les Esclaves dans les Colonies Espagnoles” (The Slaves within the Spanish Colonies), coincided with the looks of the 1st released Cuban slavery novel, Sab, by way of Gertrudis Gómez de Avellaneda.

149. Notes on numerous issues: Del Monte to Alfonso, July 30, 1840, BNC, CM. Monte. No. 19–44. T. II. 1838–1847. live performance for Beneficencia: Ibid. ; “Noticias de un Concierto,” Diario de los angeles Habana, July 22, 1840. Tearful pleas: Quico’s assertion, April 30, 1841, ANC Nazareno Lawsuit. information of agreement: agreement and money owed, July 18, 1840, ANC 1840 agreement, Folio 589–590r/v and 598r/v. Francois’ agreement: ibid. , Folios 599–604, 607. ultimate farewells: CM-LH, vol. three, pp. 410–412. bankruptcy sixteen: A music for Havana Jérôme in Baden: “Courrier de Paris,” l. a. Presse, August 31, 1839.

Her history, upbringing, and kin ties proved too powerful and limited her to a way more modest step of advocating the abolition of the exchange itself. certainly, a lot of her fellow Cubans might have perceived her as a daring liberal. In 1841, many Cuban landowners didn't but realize the necessity to deal with this factor, and Cuban slavery merely resulted in 1886. Mercedes and Chasles collaborated at the slavery letter, as fragments of surviving correspondence exhibit: “You have dedicated me … to quote the great articles of the Code Noir, considering I had already pointed out the undesirable ones, I concede.

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