ON THE OUTSKIRTS OF HAVANA
Until the late 19th century a Spanish army watch tower was located where Finca Vigía stands today, some 15 kilometers from downtown Havana. It takes its name from what the place was used for (vigía, meaning watchtower in English).
In 1887 the place passed on to Catalonian architect Miguel Pascual Baguer, who built there the spacious home. Afterwards it would have several owners until it got to French Joseph D’Orn Duchamp, from whom Hemingway and Martha Gellhorn first rented and later bought it in 1940.
After the writer’s death, the place was turned into a museum. Following Hemingway’s will, his fourth wife, Mary Welsh, returned to the island to pick up the manuscripts and the works of art, and donated to the Cuban government the place with the rest of his belongings, among them the furniture, books and hunting trophies.
The museum, which bears the name of the famous novelist but which everyone continues calling Finca Vigía, opened its doors in July 1962, barely a year after Hemingway’s suicide.
With 4.3 hectares, the estate has much more to show to visitors. The mansion, surrounded by terraces that facilitate communication with the rooms, is the principal attraction.
Peeking in its doors and windows is like traveling in time. Everything is conserved as the writer left it, as if waiting for his return. It contains his more than 9,000 books and magazines, the typewriter that was so close to him, his paintings with bullfighting motifs, the heads of buffalos and antelopes which he hunted, his knife collection.
The scale where he weighed himself every day continues in the bathroom; in the dining room, his jugs and Venetian decorations; and in the living room, a gramophone with the record of Glenn Miller he liked to listen to so much.
On one side of the house is the bungalow which Mary Welsh decorated for her husband’s children and which is now waiting to be restored. On the other side, the 12-meter-high tower built in 1947 and where Hemingway never got to write because he was distracted by the view of Havana on the horizon.