As Cuba and the US conclude a year of relationship therapy, one bright spot that has endured through the years is the connection Hemingway forged with Cuba while living and writing there for more than 30 years.
The island nation played such an important role in Hemingway’s life that he wrote seven books in Cuba, including The Old Man and the Sea, A Moveable Feast and Islands in the Stream. His tropical home, the Finca Vigía (Lookout Farm) is today a museum in honor of the Nobel Prize winner, and even today Cubans consider him an important part of their own history. Cuba’s deterioration following the 1959 revolution caused Hemingway to leave the island in 1960 – a source of profound tragedy. Within a year of his departure, Hemingway committed suicide while at his home in Idaho.
Here are 10 facts incredible facts that bind Cuba and Hemingway together:
- Hemingway was the only American civilian with permission to conduct patrols off the coast of Cuba. He was hunting German submarines in his fishing boat using direction-finding equipment, a machine gun and hand grenades. Source
- The Ernest Hemingway International Billfishing Tournament celebrated its 65th Year in 2015. The tournament was started by Hemingway himself. Today, it is one of the oldest fishing tournaments in the world.
- Hemingway met Fidel Castro at his fishing tournament (above). Castro respected Hemingway and confided that the strategy used by the guerrillas in Hemingway’s book, For Whom the Bell Tolls, gave him ideas when he was battling in the Sierra Maestro. Source: Running with the Bulls: My Years with the Hemingways, 2004.
- When Hemingway won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1954, he desired to give the 23-karat gold medal to the people of Cuba. Rather than turn the medal over to the Batista government, Hemingway placed it in the custody of the Catholic Church for display in a sanctuary at El Cobre, a small town outside Santiago de Cuba on the island’s southeast coast. Later, the medal was stolen but was quickly returned. It remains at El Cobre.
- Ernest Hemingway loved Cuba so much that he considered himself a “Cubano Sato”, which translates into a garden variety Cuban.
- Hemingway’s two favorite Havana watering holes, La Floridita and La Bodeguita del Medio, remain in business today.
- The Hemingway International Yacht Club in Havana was named after the author in 1992.
- Marina Hemingway, owned and operated by the state-owned Cubanacán, is Cuba’s largest marina with an official capacity of up to 400 vessels.
- While in Cuba, Hemingway received notice, via a telegram from the Swedish Academy, that he won the 1954 Nobel Prize for Literature.
- After the Cuba Revolution, Soviet statesman and diplomat, Anastas Mikoyan, visited Hemingway while in Cuba as the leader of the Russian delegation to the new Cuban government. Mikoyan presented Hemingway with a set of Russian translations of his complete works. Despite his status as the most popular foreign writer available in Russia at the time, Hemingway accepted graciously even though Russia ignored world copyright laws and paid no royalties. Soon thereafter, Hemingway left Cuba and never returned. Source: Running with the Bulls: My Years with the Hemingways, 2004.
Read more about Hemingway in Cuba: How I Found Hemingway in Havana