The People Of Cuba


One of the most famous historical figures associated with, and inspired by Cuba was certainly Ernest Hemingway. Although one of the characters of his novel “The Sun Also Rises” says: “You cannot escape from yourself by constantly moving from one place to another,” it seems that the famous American writer Ernest Hemingway was living that way. Havana was one of those places that he adopted as home.

Though Hemingway visited Havana several times earlier, he truly met this city in 1932 when he came from Key West by ship. He came for the fishing, but attracted by relaxed way of living and the great hospitality of the population, Hemingway permanently moved to Havana in 1939 and lived there until 1960. As with many visitors, this famous writer was amazed by the old part of the Havana City, La Habana Vjeha, that has been placed under the protection of UNESCO and turned into a pedestrian zone as well as being inspired by the people he met. The sea and the streets paved with white stone, ancient Spanish buildings such as Cathedral de San Cristobal in the 18th century, and the Plaza Vjeha squares, courtyards hidden behind the “walls” of bougainvillea and garden restaurant shaded by palms, are reminiscent of many cities along the Mediterranean coast. This was like a heaven for Hemingway.

Hemingway was spending his days drinking, writing and… enjoying life. All in his own way, of course. He loved life in a rough and tough way. He went hunting, to war, to the bullfight. Drowning in drink and with an eye for the women he loved the bars with many bars today in Havana now claiming to fame and trying to attract customers by telling a story “how Hemingway has created some new cocktail just in their place” ; he loved cats and dogs; miraculously saved from the shattered car and plane destroyed. And all around the world, he was carrying his small typewriter.

This typewriter can now be seen, although through the window, outside, in his house in Cojimar, near Havana. You can see there stuffed heads as a hunting trophies and sun loungers on which he rested. He wrote primarily standing and barefoot. He had his famous boat as well, called “Pilar”, which is considered as one of his inspiration sources as well. Cuban fisherman Gregorio Fuentes, originating from the Canary Islands, became the first officer of the “Pilar” when one of the Papa’s ( Papa Hemingway – his nickname) mistresses dismissed Carlos Gutierrez, because of the anger and jealousy of the Papa’s other potential mistress.

It is believed that Gregorio and Carlos served Hemingway for the character of the old man Santiago, in the novel “The Old Man and the Sea”, which would bring in 1954 to the author the Nobel Prize for Literature. Gregorio was born in 1897, therefore, two years before Hemingway. Since he was illiterate, he never read the novel, but he lived for a hundred and five years, until January 2002. That way, he truly turned into his own character, while Hemingway committed suicide in his sixty-second year, when he realized that his health would no longer follow his restless spirit and soul.

Papa Hemingway did not go to the Nobel Prize award event. He sent a letter instead and in it he wrote: ” Writing, at its best, is a lonely life. Organizations for writers palliate the writer’s loneliness but I doubt if they improve his writing. He grows in public stature as he sheds his loneliness and often his work deteriorates. For he does his work alone and if he is a good enough writer he must face eternity, or the lack of it, each day.”
In memoriam and gratitude to Ernest Hemingway, who said that the Nobel Prize belongs to Cuba and Cuban citizen as much as to him, local fishermen and inhabitants of Cojimar built a monument a year after his death. And the only way to find the funds for building the monument for the famous writer was to collect old boat parts (propellers and other bronze elements) and melt it.
But that’s not all – close to “La Finke”, on a hill overlooking the sea and the outlines of Havana, grateful Cubans created a concrete base, to permanently set and his beloved “Pilar”. As they were living with him, they recognized that this successful writer and adventurer who married three times, had numerous lovers, enjoyed hunting & fishing and a tireless drowning of sorrows in alcohol, loved his yacht “Pilar” the most.

Cuba was home for Hemingway for a full 27 years, where in addition to writing he was also reading, sleeping, hunting tuna and swordfish, hanging out with other writers and celebrities of the time.World travellers from all over the world love to visit this place, where it still feels the presence Hemingway’s restless spirit. Cuba has certainly housed Papa’s soul and the joy and excitement that the people of Cuba bring to this little slice of heaven are a major part of the island nations appeal.