As a follow up to yesterday’s post on Finca Vigia, Hemingway’s home in Cuba for 21 years, this video montage pertains to Hemingway’s connections with Cojimar, Cuba, a sleepy harbor town a few kilometers from his home. The post also discusses the remarkable situation where Fidel Castro won one of Hemingway’s fishing tournaments.

Cojimar, Cuba

In addition to being one of the most accomplished authors of his time, Ernest Hemingway was a dedicated sportsman.  He loved fishing and hunting.  He based his boat, Pilar, in Cojimar Harbor. Cojimar was the base for his forays into the Gulf Stream in search of game fish, and it provided inspiration for one of his greatest works.  

When he wasn’t fishing, Hemingway often visited the seaside bar and restaurant La Terraza de Cojimar. It was in La Terraza that Hemingway met Gregorio Fuentes who appears to have been the inspiration for Santiago in Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea, the tale of an epic battle between a down-on-his-luck Cuban fisherman and a giant marlin. La Terraza’s corner table overlooking Cojimar Harbor was Hemingway’s favorite spot for swapping stories and downing daiquiris.

Nearby La Terraza stands a monument in Hemingway’s honor. The people of Cojimar erected the monument following Hemingway’s suicide and during the period when the new revolutionary government was consolidating power. Politics is one thing.  Mutual respect among people is another. The English inscription reads: “In loving memory from the people of Cojimar to the Immortal Author of The Old Man and the Sea.”

Hemingway won a Pulitzer for his 1952 short novel, The Old Man and the Sea. That novel was a significant factor in Hemingway winning the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1954.  To show his respect for the Cuban people, Hemingway presented them with his Nobel Prize medal.  I assume he kept the money.

Here is a 42-second montage of photos from Cojimar, Cuba.

The Ernest Hemingway International Billfishing Tournament 

The Ernest Hemingway International Billfishing Tournament is an annual four-day event held in La Habana, Cuba that Hemingway began in 1950.  After Fidel Castro came to power in 1959 in a communist revolution, the U.S. ambassador to Cuba politely but clearly warned Hemingway about remaining on the island and appearing to support the government. 

But Hemingway’s affection for the Cuban people compelled him to support their right to self determination.  In 1960, to celebrate the 10th anniversary of his tournament, Hemingway felt it appropriate to extend an invitation to the Cuban Premier despite the threats of the U.S. government.  Although Castro was a novice fisherman, he won the tournament apparently fair and square with fellow revolutionary Che Guevara at his side. 

Castro and Guevara during the 1960 Hemingway Billfishing Tournament. Alberto Korda photo

If you visit La Terraza, look for the photo of Hemingway presenting the trophy to Fidel Castro. The tournament was the only time the two met.

Hemingway and Castro after the 1960 tournament. Alberto Korda photo

Final Thoughts

While the ownership of Finca Vigia remains an issue for the Hemingway family, maybe it is not so surprising that the Cuban government took great care of Hemingway’s property during the subsequent decades of hostility between Cuba and the US.  Hemingway had great affection for the Cuban people and culture, and the feelings were apparently mutual. Instead of relying on gunboat diplomacy, I think there is a lot to be said for fishing boat diplomacy.