Cuba Through Hemingway’s Eyes
An armchair travel guide to Papa’s adopted homeland
For so long, Cuba has been so close but so far away. Just 90 miles from Florida, the island nation has long beckoned Floridians with its tropical ambience and mystery, but the world order kept it a gem that could not be easily touched. Times have changed—traveling to Cuba is not the ordeal it once was—but the island retains the lure that captured so many, foremost among them Ernest Hemingway.
Author Robert Wheeler has tried to capture Cuba through Hemingway’s eyes in his newly published Hemingway’s Havana: A Reflection of the Writer’s Life in Cuba. Through a collection of photographs, shot as he followed Hemingway’s path around Cuba, Wheeler reveals “the profound sense of serenity, enrichment, and community that Hemingway found in Cuba,” where he lived for more than two decades.
The photographs here tell the story more than the words that accompany them. It’s the vivid color, the quality of light, the peeling paint, the seascapes and cityscapes, the gardens, the Hemingway memorabilia—all leading to a portrait of the country Hemingway so loved that he once shouted, as Wheeler recounts, “I am Cuban, after all.”
Wheeler begins his book as Hemingway began his life in Cuba: approaching by sea from Key West aboard his fishing boat, Pilar. The photos convey the fundamental identity Cubans take from the waters that surround them. The book then moves onshore, capturing the land in and around Hemingway’s home, Finca Vigia, walking the pathways around Havana, and touching upon the Cuban Revolution (1953-59) through murals and artwork that remain all these years later.
The book wraps up with images of present-day Cuba: the hotels, restaurants, walks and Hemingway’s home, now open to visitors. This is not a traditional travel guide but nonetheless conveys the spirit of Cuba to all those who wish to experience this onceforbidden country.
For Hemingway, Cuba was life itself. Many Cubans believe today, writes Wheeler, that “had Hemingway not been forced to leave his adopted homeland, or had he been allowed to return, he would not have chosen to end his life nearly a year to the day of leaving behind his beloved and peaceful residence.”