Catalina Laza’s blue eyes looked concerned in the presence of Juan Pedro Baró at a party during the first half of the 20th century: this is how one of the most transgressive Cuban romances of that time began.
Without weighing up her social responsibilities, she – a married motherof-two– broke the apparent harmony in her marriage.
Laza and Baró became lovers and shortly after, they made this feeling public which defined them as one flesh.
The social rejection they suffered became crueler and crueler and on one occasion they went to the theater and their mere presence made spectators leave one by one until the hall was left completely empty.
The lovers were left alone in the dimly-lit hall and the actors offered them an exquisite show which Catalina expressed her gratitude for by throwing her jewelry onto the stage.
Incidents like these led the couple to leave Cuba to find shelter in France, where they got married under French laws and they swore their eternal love to each other facing the tomb of Romeo and Juliet.
Catalina and Juan Pedro wished for their relationship to be given the Divine blessing and for this very reason they went to the Vatican and met with the Pope Benedict XV, who, knowing the details entrusted God with their feelings.
In 1917, the then President of the Republic of Cuba, Mario García Menocal signed the Divorce law and officially registered the separation of Catalina Laza and her first husband Luis Estévez Abreu.
On hearing the news, the couple returned to Havana and as a token of his love, Juan Pedro financed the construction of the mansion in the Cuban capital which is now called la Casa de la Amistad (The House of Friendship).
With many eccentricities, the eclectic style mansion was erected, built with Italian marble and sand from the Nile, with the most attractive part of it being a rose made of pink petals born from a graft and baptized with the name Catalina Laza.
When the construction of the property was finalized during the late 1920s, the aristocracy that had rejected them now adulated them. The couple left behind all possible hard feelings and opened up to a happiness which did not last for many years due to the fragile health of the lady.
On December 3, 1930, in the arms of her lover, Catalina’s ‘forever indigo’ look disappeared.
This time, Juan Pedro ordered for a mournful altar to be built with a dome that projected the rose of Catalina Laza through its windows.
Located in the Necropolis de Colón in Havana, the semicircular chapel made of white marble and black granite exhibits two angels knelt at its doors.
Catalina was taken to the monument on April 21, 1932, where she was buried with all her jewels just like a queen. A decade after, Juan Pedro’s burning heart stopped beating and he had requested to be ‘buried’ standing, in order to watch over, even in death, the eternal sleep of his lover.Share on FB Share on TT