Courtesy of Larry Lester, here’s something to file under “Things I Should Have Known But Didn’t”: Omara Portuondo, one of Cuba’s most famous singers, is the daughter of Bartolo Portuondo, Cuban League and Negro league infielder in the 1910s and 1920s. He captured stolen base crowns in the 1919/20 Cuban League (with Almendares) and the 1920 Negro National League (with the Kansas City Monarchs).
This is from Omara’s biography at World Music Central:
Omara has an official website and Facebook page. And here she is singing “Silencio” with Ibrahim Ferrer in the Wim Wenders film Buena Vista Social Club:
“Omara Portuondo was born in Cayo Hueso (Havana) in 1930. Omara’s mother came from a rich Spanish family and was expected to marry into another society family. Instead she ran off with the man she loved, a tall, handsome baseball player from the Cuban national team. Moreover he was black and in those days mixed race marriages were still frowned upon in Cuba. “My mother always hid the fact that she had married a black man. If they bumped into each other in the street they had to ignore each other. But at home they recreated what society denied them - a haven of peace and harmony. They loved each other very much,” Omara recalls.
“They had three daughters and as in any Cuban household there was music. There wasn’t a gramophone - they didn’t have the money. Even as a small child, Omara showed a natural aptitude for singing, picking up both melody and harmony lines from listening to her parents singing together. Her father was a good aficionado singer--he had gone to school with the songwriter Eliseo Grenet, and they remained friends, so that music was a constant in Omara's childhood home. Omara remembers her parent’s favorite music, which included songs by Ernesto Grenet and Sindo Garay’s ‘La Bayamesa’. They were her first informal singing lessons and the songs remain in her repertoire to this day.”
UPDATE 1/9/2013 Here is a link to an English translation of a Cuban blogger's piece about Omara Portuondo.