ON THE OUT­SKIRTS OF HA­VANA

On Cuba - - PERSPECTIVES -

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.

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