Cuba Through Hem­ing­way’s Eyes

An arm­chair travel guide to Papa’s adopted home­land

Times of the Islands - - Between The Lines -

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.”

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