Eighty seven years ago and with just 28 years of age, Ernest Hemingway visited Cuba for the first time. He came onboard the English steamboat Orita on April 1, 1928, which made a stopover in Havana in a route between La Rochelle, France and Key West, the U.S.A.
Hemingway (1899-1961), stepped down the boat accompanied by his second wife, a beautiful and well-to-do young lady named Pauline Pfeiffer. Ernest came for a brief stay; neither he nor Pauline had more interest than a brief two-day stay, according to prologue written by Gabriel Garcia Marquez in the book entitled Hemingway in Cuba, by Norberto Fuentes.
He was still far off from becoming such a famous US writer, winner of a Pulitzer prize in 1935 and the Literature Prize in 1954. He had just begun to accumulate merits as a writer and act as a champion of justice and solidarity feelings, since he had been a press correspondent in Europe and ambulance driver in the two world wars.
But after his brief 48-hour stay here, he returned once and again since 1932, particularly on his strong fishing passion, which led to one of his chronicles on the island.
His affection for Cuba was well expressed in his writings as he said that you live in this island because in the fresh morning you work better and more comfortably than anywhere else. He also referred to the Gulf Stream, just 45 minutes from his Cuban home, as saying that you can do the best and more abundant fishing he had ever seen in his entire life.
He is recalled as a strong man, with a mustache first, then a beard, metal frame glasses, a heavy drinker, smoker, and with a great memory and admired by women. Not to forget he had three children and was married four times. Hemingway had friends among Hollywood celebrities, boxers, bullfighters and humble fishermen.
Papa as he was called by his friends, made his own literature style, which many have tried to emulate; however, calling a spade a spade is not an easy thing to do, as Hemingway tried to do and achieved.
Cuba was his home for long and his workshop for outstanding books like The Old Man and the Sea, in 1952, For Whom the Bell Toll, in 1940 and Islands in the Stream, edited in 1970.
I was always lucky writing in Cuba, said Hemingway, who´s stay for some time at Havana´s Ambos Mundos Hotel, a nice place to write, he noted, and later he went to his farm in the town of San Francisco de Paula, currently a museum preserving all his books and furniture, his boat, and even the tombs of his dogs.
Once settled in Havana, the US writer became a usual visitor to the Floridita restaurant where he enjoyed Cuban cocktails while sitting at the bar reading newspapers. A nice tribute to that habit is his current statue right at the bar corner where he used to sit for the evening.
He would also travel to the Havana town of Cojimar, where he visited the La Terraza restaurant; there he became a popular figure among dwellers of that fishermen´s town. It was at Cojimar where he met Anselmo, or better Santiago, the character of The Old Man and the Sea, and Gregorio Fuentes, the captain of his boat El Pilar.
Hemingway´s passage on Cuba was not a brief one, no doubts it was unforgettable. Just consider his literary work here and his relationship to this country, and his legacy.