Hemingway centre opens in Cuba

Exhibits at the Ernest Hemingway Museum (left).
Exhibits at the Ernest Hemingway Museum.PHOTO: REUTERS

Opened last Saturday, the centre is located on the property where the American literary giant once lived

HAVANA • A restoration centre to preserve the work of American literary giant Ernest Hemingway opened in Cuba last Saturday, highlighting an area of cooperation with the United States even as bilateral ties between the old Cold War foes have chilled again.

Hemingway, who won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1954, wrote some of his greatest books during the 21 years he lived at Finca Vigia, or Lookout Farm, now a museum in San Francisco de Paula on the outskirts of Havana.

The restoration centre built by the National Council of Cultural Heritage of Cuba (CNPC) and Finca Vigia Foundation of the United States is located on the 6ha property where Hemingway lived in a tree-shaded, airy Spanish-style home.

"When we come together, when we work together, we can do positive and amazing things," Mr Jim McGovern, a US congressman for Massachusetts who wants better US-Cuban relations, said at a ribbon-cutting ceremony.

Mr McGovern said the project would have been much easier were it not for the decades-old US trade embargo on Cuba, that US President Donald Trump has tightened since coming to power.

Mr McGovern, who has made numerous trips to the island, established the Finca Vigia Foundation with Jenny and Frank Phillips in 2002. Mrs Jenny Phillips, who died last year, was the granddaughter of Hemingway's editor and friend, Maxwell Perkins.

Its mission is to work with Cuban colleagues to restore and preserve Finca Vigia as well as its contents and his fishing boat.

The boat had already been renovated and the home restored "to its 1950s splendour", according to the foundation website.

Now the on-site archival storage facility, whose construction began in 2015, has also opened, with the archives including Hemingway's passport.

CNPC president Gladys Collazo said the new facility is the result of collaboration among "people of goodwill" despite the obstacles.

In a separate statement, the council said "there are many US interests linked to cultural exchanges with Cuba that are curbed by the setback in bilateral relations".

"With very little money, and in the midst of a dauntingly difficult political climate, this project has flourished and continues to grow," said the Finca Vigia Foundation.

Hemingway moved to Finca Vigia in 1939, the year before For Whom The Bell Tolls was published, and wrote The Old Man And The Sea, A Moveable Feast and Islands In The Stream while he was there, according to local scholars.

He left Cuba in 1960, more than a year after the Cuban revolution and less than a year before he killed himself in Idaho at age 61 amid a struggle with depression.

The writer left thousands of documents in Cuba, ranging from manuscripts of some of his works and letters to photographs and annotated books.

The restoration centre, which received financing from the Ford Foundation, American Express Philanthropy and the AT&T Foundation, among others, includes laboratories and an air-conditioned vault.

The CNPC and Finca Vigia Foundation had previously signed three cooperation agreements to conserve and disseminate the legacy of Hemingway.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 02, 2019, with the headline 'Hemingway centre opens in Cuba'. Print Edition | Subscribe