La Terraza de Cojímar

La Terraza de Cojímar


By: Roberto F. Campos Photos by Boris Muriedas

Supported by an increasing spiral of the tourism industry, the 85th anniversary of the La Terraza de Cojimar (Cojimar Terrace) Restaurant pays tribute to one of its most loyal customers: the famous American novelist Ernest Hemingway.

Opened May 20 1925, the small tavern has grown to a world-class bar-restaurant once frequented by such renowned artists as Imperio Argentina, Hugo del Carril and Lola Flores. But it was Hemingway who gave a distinct touch to the place.

Hemingway met here with the fishermen who became his best friends on the island. The author of For Whom the Bell Tolls also anchored his yacht, Pilar, now on display at Havana's Vigía Museum, near the restaurant.

The 85th anniversary served to bring together tour operators, travel agents and specialized journalists who recalled numerous passages and characters, guided by the hand of Finca Vigia Director Ada Rosa Alfonso and the restaurant manager, Mario Muñoz.

La Terraza de CojímarLa Terraza, with 80 restaurant seats and 15 stools at the bar, features paella and fish filet as main dishes while its house drink - rum, sugar, blue curacao liqueur, lemon and maraschino cherry - the Gregorio, is named for Gregorio Fuentes, skipper of Hemingway's yacht.

The place exudes bohemian adventure. It was here, near to home, that Don Gregorio took up his post and told his marvellous stories to the guests, right up until his death at 100 years of age.

The dark blue drink honouring him was the brainchild of bartenders Daniel Cardenas, Ivan Murgado and Eider Guilarte, with 17 years behind the bar and the longest serving employees of the 24 Terrazas' staff members.

Built on the oldest street of the small town of Cojimar, La Terraza de Cojimar was originally named Las Arecas and intended to be a mixed goods store. Owned by Manuel Garcia, it became a low-cost hangout for local fishermen. In time the place took a modest step upward and was given the name La Terraza in 1940 by its owner at that time, Salvador Blanco.

The writer first came to La Terraza with his friend and skipper, Gregorio Fuentes, and soon became one of its regular customers. It was actually at this restaurant where Hemmingway met Anselmo Hernandez, the fisherman who was his inspiration for The Old Man and the Sea, the book for which he received the 1954 Nobel Prize in literature.

Cojimar, only 7 kilometers east of Havana, has a population of some 2o 000 and boasts a rustic harbour, an old fort and a gazebo with a sculpture of Hemingway made from nautical parts collected by his friends, the fishermen. Each year many tourists visit the place as part of the HemingwayTrail tour.

Although the town was never officially founded, historians mark July 15, 1649, when the fort was finished, as the date of its creation.