In 1924 Mary moved to Cuba when she married a Spanish business man, Pedro Gomez Cueto. The two had met while Mary was studying music in Boston. For a year the two dated, Mary teaching music in St. John’s at her father’s request. The Newfoundland native quickly became part of the high society in Cuba helping to found the Havana Philharmonic Orchestra and an orphanage for boys. He made boots, selling them to the Americans during World War II. They became rich.
In 1951 her husband died. She was 51 and decided to stay in Cuba.
While Mary wasn’t always a fan of about Fidel and his revolution she did concede that poverty and illiteracy ended with his rule. She saw Castro at the annual Canadian embassy party where he would greet her with: “I know your face, I know your face – but I don’t remember who you are.”
Castro had confiscated her holdings after husband Pedro passed away. At the time the fortune was worth $4 million. She was given a monthly pension of 200 pesos.
Then came the US imposed a trade embargo against Cuba in 1962. All of the money that her husband had left her was in an American bank. Unable to touch the money the native Canadian lived in poverty. Finally in 2007 intervention came in the form of a Canadian diplomat. Washington finally allowed her an allowance from her inheritance, $96 a month.
Americans would tell Mary that her money problems would be solved if she went back to Newfoundland. She said the weather was just too cold for her.
Because of the small amount of money she was drawing Mary was not able to get medical help. The US refused to transfer extra money needed for treatment for respiratory problems in time.
Mary died on Friday. A humble coffin was lowered into the ground beside her husband.
“Mary McCarthy was perhaps the best welder of the friendship between the people of Cuba and Canada,” said the Canadian consul, Mark Burger.