Rita Montaner and Xavier Cugat (1918-1920)

Rita Montaner was born into a middle-class family on 20 August 1900 in Guanabacoa, Havana . Her father, Domingo Montaner Pulgarón, was a white pharmacist and her mother, Mercedes Facenda was a mulatta; she herself was short in stature, good-looking with a fine smile, and intelligent. She learned English, Italian and French at religious school, and at 10 attended the Peyrellade Conservatory in Havana. There she studied music: solfege, theory, harmony and piano; at 16 she started voice lessons. From the start, she was a potential star: her first press notice came in 1912, her first press photograph in 1913, and in 1915 she received two bronze medals for piano. In 1917, Montaner played Mendelssohn in her final examination at the Peyrellade Conservatory in Havana; she graduated in piano, song and harmony with a gold medal.

Montaner married entertainer Xavier Cugat in 1918-1920 before marrying lawyer Dr Alberto Fernández Díaz. They had two sons, Rolando and Alberto. The marriage lasted until his death in 1932, and she remarried twice. She died of cancer in 1958, aged 57.

Rita Montaner and Xavier Cugat