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Culture | Ernest Hemingway's Cuba Connection

Ernest Hemingway, an American journalist and novelist, was originally born in Illinois. However, the moment he arrived in Cuba, he instantly fell in love with the people and culture. In 1928, Hemingway made his first venture to Cuba with his wife Pauline and their two children. Although this stay only lasted three days, it was more than enough to make him fall madly in love with Cuba.

Hemingway didn’t return to the island for nearly four years when he was accompanied by his two friends and Carlos Gutierrez, a master fisherman. Carlos taught him how to catch fish at different depths, this ultimately led to him buying a boat named Pilar. Hemingway was inspired by these events to write about his adventures while fishing. He wrote an article for Esquire Magazine titled, “Marlin off the Morro: A Cuban letter,” detailing his experience fishing in Cuban waters.

In 1940, Ernest and Pauline divorced due to his affair with young journalist Martha Gellhorn. Martha and Ernest moved to Cuba shortly thereafter and purchased a home outside Havana. Hemingway would ultimately end up living at Lookout Farm, better known as Finca Vigia, for the next 20 years.

Hemingway became quite the figure throughout Havana within a short period of time. While relations between Cuba and the U.S. were beginning to weaken, most Americans fled back to the U.S., unlike Hemingway who stayed in Cuba and continued his war reporting. Although Hemingway was most recognized for his fiction, his war reporting was groundbreaking during this time. According to Sean Hemingway, his grandson, his war dispatches "were written in a new style of reporting that told the public about every facet of the war, especially, and most importantly, its effects on the common man, woman, and child." Hemingway was committed to telling the truth in his way, oftentimes this meant witnessing firsthand combat.

Ernest Hemingway Cuba

ERNEST Hemingway at War

  • First World War (1918) - Hemingway served as an ambulance driver in Italy. This experience inspired his novel, A Farewell to Arms.

  • Greece and Turkey War (1922) - Hemingway witnessed postwar displacement and documented the catastrophic effects.

  • Spanish Civil War (1936) - Hemingway was a correspondent for the North American Newspaper Alliance.

  • Sino-Japanese War (1941) - Hemingway traveled to China to report on the conflict.

  • World War II - While living in Cuba Hemingway took it upon himself to hunt German U-boats with Pilar, his personal boat. Pilar had weaponry and radio communication systems in case they encountered German soldiers. He also traveled to Europe, reporting on events, such as the D-Day landing.

After Hemingway’s long stint at war, he ultimately returned home to Cuba. Cubans welcomed him with open arms. In June 1947 at the U.S. embassy in Cuba, Hemingway was awarded a Bronze Star for his contributions as a war correspondent. He then went on to receive the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1954, which he gave to the people of Cuba. Hemingway’s legacy to Cuba can be seen throughout his war experiences, stories, and books. Ultimately, he wrote seven books in Cuba, including Islands in the Stream, The Old Man and the Sea, A Moveable Feast, and For Whom the Bell Tolls.

Hemingway stayed in Cuba until 1960. He returned to Idaho and committed suicide in 1961. Today, the Finca Vigia, his former home, has been transformed into a museum that showcases his life and work. His legacy continues to live on as many artists and writers draw inspiration from his adventures and his work.

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