ERNEST HEMINGWAY OF CUBA
By Manuel E. Yepe
Two thousand digital copies of documents submitted by Cuba to the United States will allow scholars and the general public a more complete picture of the life of novelist Ernest Hemingway.
The Finca Vigía Foundation, created in 2004 by Jenny Phillips, granddaughter of Hemingway's editor, Maxwell Perkins, is working with Cuba in the preservation of documents, books and other belongings of the writer in what was his Cuban home until his death in 1961.
All American visitors who come to Cuba for the first time are surprised by the popularity of Ernest Hemingway in Cuba.
In 2011, the Cuban. Interests Section in its Washington, DC headquarters, opened in a pub that bears his name. On that occasion, the head of the Cuban delegation, Ambassador Jorge Bolanos, said the tribute was responding to what little is known in the United States on Cuba closely with this major figure of American letters.
Hemingway lived in Cuba a quarter of his life, when his literary work enjoyed great renown. It was during this period that he won the Nobel Prize for Literature for his novel The Old Man and The Sea.
He came to Cuba for the first time in 1928. He came from France en route to Key West, Florida, and spent a few hours in Havana. Years later he returned to Cuba aboard the yacht of a friend to fish. He captured nineteen marlins and that made him very fond of fishing for the rest of his life.
He was in Cuba from April to June 1932 and met new tropical flavors (mango, guava, avocado, pineapple). About these he wrote an article entitled "Needles against Morro” [Morro Castle, a colonial fortress in Havana]", published in Esquire magazine.
He returned in 1933 to write two of his best stories and found that the Cuban climate and practicing sports activities contributed to his creative energy.
He also discovered the Hotel Ambos Mundos, where he stayed for the next ten years in a room from which he watched the bay, the sea and the small boats of humble fishermen. He regularly visited landmarks of Old Havana, where he enjoyed his favorite drinks. "My mojito in La Bodeguita del Medio and my daiquirí in El Floridita", which he recommended to friends.
In 1933, he captured a 750-pound blue marlin that kept him fighting for over an hour and a half and finally broke his rod.
In August of that year, with the tyranny of Gerardo Machado next to collapse, and before leaving for Spain, he revealed to his friends that he supported the cause of the Cubans, and wished for the speedy overthrow of the "wretched tyrant". In the ship carrying him to Santander, he heard on the radio the news of Machado's overthrow.
Events in Cuba in the 1930s -the dictatorship, a revolution, a military coup and the frustration they caused- are reflected in his writing.
In his novel "Have and Have Not," 1937, a young Cuban tells the protagonist: "... we are the only truly revolutionary party. We want to finish with the old politicians (...) and the enslavement of the peasants (...) and distribute the land of the large sugar cane plantations among those who work (...) I love my poor country and would do anything to free it from this tyranny...”
Hemingway finally settled in Cuba in 1939 when he acquired, with his wife Martha Gellhorn, the Finca Vigía, in the northeast of Havana.
There he wrote For Whom the Bell Tolls.
In Cojimar, a fishing village, he met Gregorio Fuentes, who was the captain of the yacht Pilar and the inspiration for his masterpiece, The Old Man and the Sea.
In accepting his Nobel Prize for literature in 1954, he said: "This award belongs to Cuba, because my works were created and conceived inCuba, in my village of Cojimar, of which I am a citizen."
Hemingway donated the Nobel Prize medal to the Virgen de la Caridad del Cobre, patron saint of Cuba, his "adopted nation." It is said that in 1960, Fidel Castro confessed to Hemingway that "For Whom the Bell Tolls", which he read as a student, had inspired the tactics for fighting Batista's army.
His biographer Robert Baker tells that once, when asked about the cold attitude of the United States against the Cuban Revolution, Hemingway replied that he deplored this attitude and, after twenty years of living in Cuba, he considered himself Cuban. In saying this, he took the edge of a Cuban flag and kissed it.
In 1960, he returned to the United States to be hospitalized at the Mayo Clinic. There, when he was approached by reporters and asked about Cuba, he responded: "We, the people of honor, believe in the revolution."
“For Cubans, that was Hemingway's farewell,” Jorge Bolaños noted.
Revised translation by Roxana Marquez Herrera