Hemingway’s Dreams in Cuba (Part II), Spots of the Bronze God
By: Roberto F. Campos
Lured by a special charm, many travelers seek the places in Cuba that were known by the famous American writer Ernest Hemingway, places where he lived or simply where one can still find his mark. Ernest Hemingway, the man, was almost as Cuban as he was American. This statement is demonstrated by the constant signs of his presence in marvellous spots in Cuba, where the author of The Old Man and the Sea lived uninterruptedly for more than 20 years.
The “Bronze God of American Literature” chose places with lots of character for meeting with friends, talking, drinking or writing. He also selected particular waterways for fishing or for chasing German submarines, all places today pinpointed for a grand tour.
Born July 21, 1899 in Oak Park, Chicago, Hemingway first arrived in Cuba on the cloudy night of April 1, 1928, at 22:50 local time, according to the notes of the time, and specialists conclude that the writer arrived in the British Steamship Orita, with its entry into Havana Bay registered at Morro Castle, the emblematic fortress of the island’s capital. He arrived with his then second wife, Pauline Pfeiffer, five months pregnant, during a trip from France to Key West, with a stopover in Havana. A year later, the young reporter in the boat “Anita” was drawn to Cuban waters to fish for marlin.
However, other authorities consider that he was attracted to the island by the tumultuous Jane Mason, wife of US multimillionaire George Grant Mason, Pan American Airways representative in Cuba.
In any event, Hemingway, then 29, was caught up in the woman’s orb and surrendered to her charms. During his first stays on the island he lived in Room 511 of Old Havana’s Ambos Mundos Hotel, a room today preserved in his honour. From that room, the writer had quite a view of the entire city and finished For Whom the Bell Tolls.
Hemingway had an active life in Havana from 1929 to 1936 in his favourite retreats like the Floridita Bar, which named a version of the daiquiri after him. This is the “Papa Doble” or “Hemingway Special”, based on white rum, lemon, mint and sugar, from which he took out the sugar and added more alcohol.
He sometimes drank twelve large glasses of the concoction at a time and took a couple of them “for the road” on his return to his Finca Vigía, his country home in the heights of San Francisco de Paula that his third wife, Martha Gellhorn, rented in 1939 and which he bought in 1940.
In this rural residence, with its stunning view, Hemingway wrote, but not in the tower his wife had built for him, because he preferred to write standing in his room. The Finca is now the Hemingway Museum where everything is preserved just as when he lived there.
To the east of the estate is the small fishing village of Cojimar, where he docked his yacht, Pilar. In Cojimar is still found the La Terraza Restaurant, specializing in the seafood dishes of which the Nobel Prize winner was fond.