Cuba seems to have a special gravity when it comes to attracting iconic figures and historic moments. Perhaps the forces of reverse nostalgia have been at work far longer than we realize.
Just last month, Pope Francis, head of the Roman Catholic Church, stopped in Cuba for a historic meeting with the head of the Russian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Kirill, at Havana’s José Martí International airport.
The Pope said the purpose for the meeting is to have a “personal conversation” with the leader of the Russian Orthodox Church that split with the Catholic Church in the Great Schism of 1054. After 1,000 years of division between the Eastern Orthodox churches and Western Catholic Church, Cuba was the setting for the healing to begin.
In Havana’s famous bar, La Bodeguita del Medio, a pearl of wisdom handwritten by Hemingway hangs behind the bar: “My mojito in La Bodeguita, My daiquiri in El Floridita.” A photo on the wall shows Che Guevara sitting in one the the bar’s booths.
Pablo Neruda was another artist present in the period leading up to the Cuban revolution of 1959. Neruda, who shared an affinity for communism, visited Cuba on several occasions and is rumored to have asked Che to save some old printing equipment that remains today in the Experimental Graphic Art Studio in Old Havana. Neruda frequented La Bodeguita del Medio along with other hipsters from the period.
Both Hemingway and Neruda were awarded the Nobel prize for literature. Both loved the sea. For Hemingway, the sea symbolized life in his book, The Old Man and the Sea, for which he won the Nobel prize. Over the course of his life, Neruda collected more than 9,000 seashells, including one from the Chinese leader Mao Zedong.
And both had an unusual preoccupation with women. For Neruda, his passion for the opposite sex manifested in his poetry. For Hemingway, it was a lifestyle. It was his third wife, Martha Gellhorn, who urged Hemingway to purchase the Cuban country estate in an attempt to keep him away from the temptations of Havana.
In a fascinating twist, David Soul maintains today’s ligature between Neruda and Hemingway. David is an American-British actor and singer. He is known for his role as Detective Kenneth “Hutch” Hutchinson in the ABC television series Starsky & Hutch from 1975-1979. He’s also a singer and lover of Neruda’s Poetry.
David Soul reads Pablo Neruda from Red Earth Studio on Vimeo.
David also happens to be a huge Hemingway fan. In darkly comic film (still under development), Cuban Soul follows David’s intrepid odyssey as he embarks on a mission to restore Ernest Hemingway’s lost and recently unearthed 1955 Chrysler New Yorker Deluxe convertible.