Ha­vana Hem­ing­way's Par­adise

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When Ernest Hem­ing­way ar­rived in Finca Vi­jía he was al­ready well-known in Ha­vana. The Am­bos Mun­dos Ho­tel, El Floridita Bar and La Bode­guita del Medio formed part of his usual itin­er­ary each time he ar­rived in Cuba.

His third wife, jour­nal­ist Martha Gell­horn, found the es­tate, lo­cated on a hill in San Fran­cisco de Paula, on the out­skirts of the city, and for Hem­ing­way it seemed ideal for the life he wanted.

The writer would jus­tify his en­chant­ment by say­ing that it was be­cause to go into the city he only had to put on his shoes, be­cause he could cover the tele­phone’s ring with pa­per to avoid any calls and be­cause dur­ing the morn­ing breeze he worked bet­ter and more com­fort­ably than in any other place.

The cou­ple rented Finca Vigía in 1939 and a year later bought the prop­erty. Hem­ing­way, who still hadn’t won the Pulitzer Prize or pub­lished sev­eral of his most rec­og­nized works, would turn the place into a sanc­tu­ary for his writ­ing.

Ev­ery morn­ing, while there was si­lence in the en­tire house, he would write on his type­writer, stand­ing up and bare­foot over a rug made from the leather of a kudu hunted dur­ing a sa­fari through Africa. There, works like For Whom the Bell Tolls, A Mov­able Feast, Is­lands in the Stream, The Old Man and the Sea… would be par­tially or com­pletely born.

His children and friends, celebri­ties like Er­rol Flynn, Gary Cooper, Spencer Tracy and Mar­lene Di­et­rich would also go there, and from there he would go to the nearby town of Co­jí­mar to meet with his old friends the fish­er­men, and go out fish­ing in the Gulf Stream, “the Great Blue River,” on his famous yacht Pi­lar.

Dur­ing the fol­low­ing 20 years af­ter his ar­rival in Finca Vigía, Hem­ing­way would change wives, would travel the world, would par­tic­i­pate in World War II and would win the No­bel Prize for Lit­er­a­ture. But he wouldn’t leave his Ha­vana par­adise.

And although he left Cuba for good in 1960 and a year later died in Idaho from a shot that came from his own ri­fle, Papa – as he was called on the is­land – had no other more sta­ble res­i­dence in his life than the San Fran­cisco de Paula man­sion.

Pho­tos: Ot­maro Ro­dríguez

Eric Cara­bal­loso

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