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Mercedes Santa Cruz y Montalvo, known in Cuban letters as la condesa de Merlin, returned to her hometown of Havana in 1840 after a life-long sojourn in Spain and France. My book, the first in-depth study of Mercedes Merlin in English, studies two of her riveting travelogues: La Havane and Viaje a la Habana, both published in 1844. While La Havane offers a view of Cuba's colonial society--the governorship of the Spanish Captain General; the debate over slavery; gender roles and public spaces; commerce and industry--Viaje a la Habana, stripped of all controversial letters, is a sentimental return home of this erudite nineteenth-century daughter of the sugar aristocracy. In letters to her daughter and leading personalities of her time, Madame Merlin expresses her longing to find her roots amidst the crowded streets of colonial Havana. My book does homage to this foundational figure in Cuban letters, and shows her impact on 20th century Cuban writers.
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