Madonna's with child - and a hero is born

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As the child of Italian immigrants, the American pop star Madonna was christened just so. Whether she has since cashed in on the religious significance of her name is open to question. But when she announced her pregnancy last week, she was quick to assure the world that the conception had been immaculately human.

The father was named as Carlos Leon, a Cuban-American fitness instructor, sometime model and aspiring actor who, at 29, is eight years her junior.

Now, "Carlito" (Little Carlos), as the singer calls him, is on the verge of becoming the best-known Cuban since Fidel Castro. Well, perhaps a better example would be Desi Arnez, who gained fame as the husband of Lucille Ball in the long-running TV series still repeated around the world. To the one million-strong Cuban-American community in the US, most of them anti-Castro, news that Madonna's child would be of Cuban extraction stole the headlines on Wednesday from the 35th anniversary of the failed Bay of Pigs invasion.

Carlos has been Madonna's "personal trainer" for more than a year after she confessed to "picking him up" while jogging in New York's Central Park at the end of 1994. Until then, he had been a professional cycle racer, winning the New York State Cyclecross Championship in 1994. Now, he and Madonna alternate between the Big Apple and Miami, where she has a multi-million ocean-front mansion and where she increasingly spends her free time with the two men in her life, Carlito and Pepito, a white pit bull terrier. "Carlito," she says, "is the one who doesn't eat my shoes."

Madonna first unveiled Carlito last August at her 37th birthday party in the Blue Door restaurant, of which she is a partner, in the Delano Hotel on Miami's trendy South Beach. At six foot, a lithe 172 pounds, with short black hair, a Cuban-style pencil-thin moustache, tiny chin beard, long, black eyelashes and white designer "pirate" shirt, he was a dashing companion.

He was then reported to have been seen with her during visits to New York fertility specialist Dr Hugh Melnick, known as an expert in in-vitro fertilisation. New York magazine described the doctor as an unusual choice, saying he had been barred from "banking" semen in 1990 after a white woman sued him for inseminating her with sperm from a black man.

When Carlos first appeared in public with the singer, some assumed he was one of her many gay friends. He added fuel to the rumours when he told Miami's best-known celebrity-watcher, Tara "The Queen Of The Night" Solomon, that one of his favourite writers was the late gay Cuban, Reinaldo Arenas.

Carlos Manuel Leon was born in Havana, and moved with his parents to New York in his early twenties. Pushed by his companion, he has taken to modelling, including last winter's catalogue from Madonna's close friend and fellow Miami resident Gianni Versace.

Although he still considers himself a New Yorker, Carlos has taken to Miami. He works out in the gym five or six hours a week, runs eight to 10 miles almost every day, likes "healthy, energetic and passionate people" and dislikes "smoking and loud people".

He said he hoped to open his own gym in Miami where "first of all, it's warm, and there's more of a Cuban culture. Even though I'm not from Miami, I feel like I'm home."

His philosophy? "Stay focused and all your dreams will come true." That, he said, included getting married.

As for Madonna, she's said nothing about marriage, describing it in the past as "unnecessary", even if she got pregnant. One thing's for sure, though. She's keepin' her baby.