Column: Hemingway’s Cojimar

Hemingway Memorial in Cojimar, Cuba (Photo by Don Knebel)

Hemingway Memorial in Cojimar, Cuba (Photo by Don Knebel)

Americans traveling to Havana often seek locations identified with Ernest Hemingway, who lived in Cuba off and on during the 1940s and 1950s. One of the most popular of those spots is Cojimar, a small fishing village east of Havana that became the setting for one of Hemingway’s best-known books.

In 1951, reportedly unhappy with the reception given Across the River and Into the Trees, Hemingway began writing a short novel drawing on the colorful stories and people he encountered while fishing and drinking in and around Cojimar, where he berthed Pilar, his boat. Published in 1952, The Old Man and the Sea won the 1953 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction.

Today, visitors to Cojimar can eat and drink in La Terraza de Cojimar, the seaside bar Hemingway dubbed “The Terrace” in his novel. One of its pictures of Hemingway shows him with a young Fidel Castro, who won Hemingway’s fishing competition in 1960, the only time the two ever met. Another shows Gregorio Fuentes, the long-time captain of Pilar, who controversially claimed until he died in 2002 at age 104 that he was the inspiration for Santiago, the novel’s main character, and charged Cojimar visitors to talk to him.

A short walk from La Terraza is the neo-classical Hemingway Memorial, dedicated in 1962, a year after Hemingway’s death in Idaho. Six Ionic columns supporting a stone ring surround a short bust of Hemingway facing Cojimar Bay, with a plaque saying: “In loving memory from the people of Cojimar to the Immortal Author of the Old Man and the Sea.” The bust was reportedly cast from boat fittings donated by local fisherman grateful that Hemingway had called the world’s attention to their struggles but unable to support the project financially.

If you get to Cuba, consider visiting Cojimar, a short taxi ride from central Havana.

Don Knebel

Don Knebel works for Barnes & Thornburg LLP. You may contact him at editorial@youarecurrent.com.

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