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Museo Finca Vigia celebrates its 45th birthday (1).

Gladys Rodriguez Ferrero was the first curator of the Museo Finca Vigia, the historic house museum that preserves and interprets Hemingway's Cuban home and its extraordinary contents. Today, Rodriguez Ferrero is a distinguished member of Cuba's Consejo Nacional de Patrimonio Cultural and an honorary member of the Hemingway Society. To celebrate the Finca's 45th anniversary, we are fortunate to have this top Cuban museum expert take us on a tour of the house and grounds, as well as Hemingway's cabin cruiser Pilar. Along the way, Rodriguez Ferrero shares her reflections on the Finca's remarkable history both as Hemingway's home and as a museum, and describes for us the valuable and interesting artifacts on display, painting a picture of the material culture that surrounded Hemingway during his lifetime.


THERE IS NO DOUBT THAT ERNEST HEMINGWAY is one of the world's celebrities that Cuba knows and loves best. Even though more than forty years have passed since his death, Cuba keeps his memory alive. He has become not just part of Cuban culture, but one Of its myths, a legend assimilated into the Cuban national psyche.

Finca Vigia, his Cuban home from April 1939 until the end of July 1960, became a Museum on 23 August 1961, when, in accordance with her husband's wishes, Mary Welsh Hemingway deeded it to the Government of Cuba. On that August day, she entrusted the Finca Vigia to Dr. Fidel Castro Ruiz, then Prime Minister of Cuba's Revolutionary Government.

The Museum was inaugurated on 21 July 1962, Hemingway's sixty-third birthday. Two important Cuban writers spoke at the inaugural ceremonies: Alejo Carpentier, a recipient of Spain's prestigious Premio Cervantes; and Lisandro Otero, a recent recipient of Cuba's National Prize for Literature, who had known and interviewed Hemingway. since its inauguration, the Museum has undergone two major restorations, the first from 1982 to 1984, and the second from 1992 to 1994. A new, wider ranging restoration was begun in February 2004 and completed in 2006.

From the beginning, the Museum has assumed the important and difficult task of preserving the Finca Vigia as a cultural and historical treasure of international standing. In pursuit of this aim, the Museum has worked tirelessly during all its forty-five years, organizing its holdings and integrating them into educational and cultural programs. In 1986, it established the Coloquio Hemingway to facilitate and encourage cultural and scholarly interaction between local and foreign specialists.

Primarily a literary institution, the Museum is responsible for the preservation of its several important collections of primary sources. The most important of these includes the writer's manuscripts, letters written by the people with whom he interacted most intimately, and many other documents connected to the life and work of Ernest Hemingway during the three decades of his Cuban involvement. The writer's library forms another impressive collection: it includes editions of his works published in his lifetime, other editions (including editions of his collected works, of translations, and of letters), as well as the many books which testify to his remarkably wide range of interests. Much of our effort goes towards the conservation and preservation of these fragile materials. Hemingway's library has an administrative function and its holdings also act as Museum displays. So do the record and film collections, which preserve the voice and image of the author and contain his favorite music and films.

The Museum's collection of portraits and photographs is also used in its expositions. Images of the writer, his family, and friends give insight into his personal and creative life. The large and varied collection of personal objects and artifacts is also a prominent part of the Museum's holdings. It includes his clothes, shoes, medals, hunting trophies, and a wide range of other objects, including the typewriters preserved in the Ambos Mundos Hotel and in the Finca Vigia itself. The Museum also holds the many works of art (paintings, pottery, carvings, and other artifacts) which the Hemingways had in their home. Looking at the size and scope of the Museum's collections one realizes that Hemingway was, as George Plimpton defined him, a man incapable of discarding any of his possessions.

With such a variety of materials, preservation work becomes complicated. It has been necessary to create specialized teams, obtain and train new personnel, and coordinate their efforts. Architects, gardeners, librarians, archivists, curators, and experts in the fields of preservation, restoration, and conservation have worked and continue to work with metals, wood, paints, fabrics, leather, paper, and other materials. In addition to their expertise in their individual fields, the curators and scientists of the Museo Hemingway are also well-versed in other areas--the author's life, his work, and the literature, art, history, and material culture of the period-in order to ensure accuracy in restoration, preservation, and cataloguing; to be able to explain and contextualize the Museum's holdings; and to prepare exhibits for the scholarly and general public.


Ernest Hemingway first came to Cuba on the British steamship Orita, which docked at Havana on 10:50 P.M. on 1 April 1928 and departed the next morning at 5:29 A.M. (2) Hemingway and his wife, Pauline Pfeiffer, who was then six months pregnant with their son Patrick, spent that night in Havana's Ambos Mundos Hotel. During the next decade, Hemingway returned often to Cuba, to fish the rich Gulf Stream, to enjoy Havana's night life, and to work and sleep in his favorite room (Number 511) of the Ambos Mundos Hotel. During his frequent sojourns in Havana, all through the 1930s, he absorbed and internalized the city's colors, music, rhythms, traditions, and people, and these, in time, became the subjects and subtexts of several of his novels.

On 14 February 1939, Hemingway motored in his cabin cruiser, the Pilar, to Havana, intending to make the city his home. After one night in the Hotel Sevilla, he moved into his usual room at the Ambos Mundos Hotel. The marriage with Pauline was over, and Martha Gellhorn, later his third wife; joined him there. It was she who found and rented the Finca Vigia, into which they moved in April of that year.

Finca Vigia is in San Francisco de Paula, a town established at the end of the 18th century. The town is located at Kilometer 12.5 of the old Carretera Central (Central Highway). Although considerably larger today than it was, San Francisco de Paula still remains a small town. Its main features area cemetery, unused since 1962 and somewhat derelict, and a hermitage, built in 1795 and recently restored. From its hills one can see the city of Havana, its fortifications, and the seashore.

Legend has it that in the 19th century, a small wooden fort stood upon one of these hills. Used for general reconnaissance, it is said to have enabled the Spaniards keep track of a Cuban mambi (Cuban term for those who fought against Spanish dominion of Cuba) who was active in that area in 1895. The Spaniards are also said to have burned down the hill top home of a certain Pascual (this could be the man's first or last name), who defiantly rebuilt his home on the same site.

More solid facts came to light in 1985, when Sara Pascual Canosa, a Cuban socialite (d. September 1987) revealed that the architect who had built Finca Vigia was her grandfather, Miguel Pascual y Baguer, who had immigrated to Cuba from Gerona, Catalonia. He and his Cuban wife, Teresa Serra, whose family were also Catalan, had recently lost two of their children, and they thought that living in this beautiful area would help them and their remaining son cope with their losses.

Sara Pascual Canosa said, "He [her grandfather] bought Finca Vigia [Lookout Farm or Estate, so named because it is on a hill] in 1887 and my grandparents, Miguel and Teresa, and my father Pedro, then four years old, moved into this house that my grandfather had built. They lived there from 1887 until 1903, when my father married my mother.... After my father's marriage ... they moved again to La Habana and kept that house, as their country home, for occasional visits. I'm not sure how long my grandfather kept the house, I don't remember, but sometime later, probably in 1904 or 1905, he sold the finca to someone whose name I don't remember." (3) The buyer was probably Joseph D'orn Duchamp de Chastaigne, a Frenchman involved in real estate. In 1939, he rented the property to Hemingway, and in 1940, Hemingway bought it. He had just sold the movie rights of For Whom the Bell Tolls to Paramount for $100,000, and he paid $12,500 for his new home.

Today the Finca Vigia covers about 40,000 square meters (almost ten acres) and contains four original structures: the main house, the tower, the pool, and the bungalow-garage. The pavilion housing Hemingway's cabin cruiser Pilar was added in 1993. These structures are surrounded by green areas and gardens of rose bushes, almond and mango trees, casuarinas and orchids. For the past forty-five years, the Museum has been intent on restoring and preserving the buildings, their contents, and the surrounding landscape (including such details as the four little headstones that comprise Hemingway's canine cemetery) as accurately and faithfully as possible.


The house itself comprises several large rooms:

Mary's Room

This suite, immediately to the right as one enters through the Finca's front door, contains a vestibule, bathroom, and bedroom. When Mary came to the Finca as Hemingway's fourth wife, she added large windows at the front and back of her large, airy bedroom, to take advantage of the views and to enable her to see the hundred-year-old Ceiba tree at the entrance to the house. Her many bookshelves reveal her literary taste and her interest in cooking and gardening. The bookstand at the head of the large bed holds a Braille edition of The Old Man and the Sea, published in the former U.S.S.R. in 1957, and given to Hemingway by the Soviet leader Anastas Mikoyan when he visited in 1960. Hemingway was moved to know that this work was available to the blind.

An early 19th century mirror in a handsome frame, bought in a Venetian antique shop, hangs on one wall of this room. According to their friend Dr. Jose Luis Herrera Sotolongo, the Hemingways liked its patina and refused to have it resilvered. Another wall displays the mounted head of a fringe-eared oryx (Oryx gazella callotis) which Mary killed with a single shot in Kimana Swamp, Kenya, in 1953. The antlers of a mule deer (Odocoileus hemionus), taken by Mary in the mountains of Idaho, 1948, are on the hall wall, at the entrance to the suite. These two pieces introduce the theme of hunting into the decor of the house, a theme that finds expression in almost every other room.

Living Room

The five hunting trophies on the walls of the living room refer to the African safaris of 1933-1934 and 1953-1954 and to hunts in Montana, Idaho, and Wyoming. The furniture, designed by Hemingway, Martha Gellhorn, and Toby Bruce (a Key West friend of the author) and showing a strong Spanish flavor, was built by Cuban carpenters, using lovely native woods.

The Spanish theme dominates the art work in the living room. Two large signed oil paintings by Spanish artist Roberto Domingo (1883-1956, born and educated in France) hang on opposite walls of this large room. The larger of these, La cogida (The Goring, 244 by 115 cm, or 96 by 45 in.) depicts the back of a huge bull straining to reach a banderillero who is leaping over the barrera to safety; the bull's left horn grazes the banderillero's buttocks. 'The powerful leaping bull is depicted in gray, black, and white; in contrast with the red of the barrera and the yellow and magenta of the bullfighter's cape which, still held in his right hand, swirls dramatically. A hat is visible on the sand; it may be the picador's, suggesting that he, like the banderillero, was unable to dominate this bull. The bottom of the painting is in one solid color, without text or images--an indication that this canvas would be used as the basis for printing posters to announce bullfights: pertinent details would be inserted in the blank space. Hemingway acquired La cogida in "1929 or 1931 (probably the latter date), during one of his long sojourns in Spain while he was studying the bullfight and collecting illustrations for Death in the Afternoon. He chose this beautiful painting, full of motion and drama, for the dust jacket of the first edition of that book. Hanging near the Finca's main entrance, on the wall that faces Hemingway's favorite chair, it clearly holds pride of place. (4)

Facing this painting is another signed Domingo oil, Corrida de toros (The Bullfight), also known as Suerte de varas (The Pic-ing). It is smaller (68 by 89 cm, 31 by almost 36 in.), and shows a bull between two mounted picadors. The picador in the foreground, in the left corner of the painting, faces the spectator, as he and his horse move away from the bull. The other picador, seen behind the bull and positioned at the center of the painting, is trying to control his horse and maintain his equilibrium. Neither picador is working with the bull, as they should be. Between them, a bullfighter, red Cape in hand, attempts to distract the bull, while several other bullfighters, at bottom right, tensely observe the disorderly scene. All of this action, in the foreground, is in shadow, against a sunny background showing a broad expanse of the arena and a capacity crowd sitting in the full sun. Framed by the shelves that hold Hemingway's large record collection, this painting hangs on the back wall of the long living room, to the left of the door that leads to Hemingway's bedroom.

These two important Domingos are accompanied by two smaller pieces, both of them gouache on cardboard, both measuring 64.5 by 50 cm (26 by 20 in.), and both called Encierro (Running the Bulls into the Ring). They hang on the wall facing the Finca's front door, to the left of the entrance to the dining room. A small Spanish tambourine, with a red fringe, hangs between them. The painting on the left shows a mounted young man holding a pic, encouraging his mount to trot, at the gate of a bull-breeding ranch. The one on the right shows a young man, pic held high, opening the gate to let the bulls out and being knocked over by one of them; a hat, perhaps his, is on the ground. (5) Eighteenth-century candlesticks from the altar of a church in Extremadura, Spain, and three Pre-Columbian Incan vessels, given to Hemingway by the Club Marciano Chiclayo, Peru, stand on a bookcase under these two Domingo gouaches.

On the same wall, but closer to Hemingway's bedroom, is the living room's fifth Domingo piece. This is a large cartel (mass-produced paper poster announcing a bullfight, 226 by 105 cm, or 90 by 42 in.), almost as big as Domingo's Toros. It announces the appearance of Fermin Espinosa (Armillita II, or Armillita Chico) and Domingo Ortega at a bullfight in Quintanar de la Orden on 28 August 1933. (6) It depicts two mounted vaqueros (cowboys, or bull herders), their backs to the spectator and their eyes on the herd of valuable fighting bulls (seen in the background) that has been entrusted to their care. All of the artwork on the walls of the living room, then, testifies to Hemingway's love for Spain, for the bulls and for the bullfight, which he first encountered in 1923 and which is a central motif in several of his short stories, a few poems, some journalistic essays, and important longer works like The Sun Also Rises (1926), Death in the Afternoon (1932), and The Dangerous Summer (1960), copies of which are held by the Museum.

Near one of the windows that open on to the paved front terrace are two armchairs, one for Mary and one for Hemingway, and between them is a well-supplied table-bar, which they designed. The library of records on the back wall of this room, with its nine hundred items, reveals his wide-ranging music taste and includes jazz and big band music performed by the greats of his day--"Fats" Waller, Benny Goodman, Tommy Dorsey, Louis Armstrong, and Glenn Miller. The classical music, Hemingway said in a talk given at the Swedish Consulate in Havana, is arranged according to his tastes, with Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, and Brahms being his favorites. Spanish music is represented by the composers Albeniz, de Falla, and Granados, as well as various genres of Spanish folk music. Another shelf holds different themes and genres: American country music, Navajo, Sioux, and African tribal songs, popular and traditional music from various countries, and some literary readings. (7) Cuban music is represented by prominent composers like Jorge Anckerman, Eliseo Grenet, Ernesto Lecuona, and Juan Arrondo, and by performers like Rita Montaner (singing the music of Eliseo Grenet). (8) ALtogether, this room is so full of the presence of Hemingway that one feels one can still hear the murmur of long-ago conversations.

Hemingway's Despacho (Work Room)

Hemingway's suite consists of his work room/bedroom, a study, and a bathroom. Hemingway liked to write in the bright corner work room, which has three windows, early in the mornings, standing up, usually barefoot and shirtless. The typewriter in this room, a Royal that is one of the Museum's most valuable pieces, was used for all his post-1939 productions. Another important object, dating from Hemingway's first safari, is the head of a Cape buffalo (Syncerus caffer caffer), whose hunt forms the backdrop of "The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber" (1936). Three more heads decorate this room, which also contains family pictures and a variety of small, often handmade objects given him by close friends.

An archway leads from the work room into the study, whose contents recall Hemingway's career as a war correspondent, covering the Greco-Turkish War (1919-1922) for the Canadian paper Toronto Star, the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939) for N.A.N.A. (North American Newspaper Alliance), the Second Sino-Japanese war (1937-1945) for P.M., and the Second World War (1941-1945), for Colliers. The bureau displays his honorary ranks of Lieutenant and Captain, bestowed upon him in the First and Second World Wars respectively, his credentials as a war correspondent, and fascist insignia collected as WWII trophies.

Also in this room is Hemingway's collection of knives, displayed on the embroidered dress cape given him by his friend, the American bullfighter Sidney Franklin. There is also a fine collection of carvings, bought from craftsmen in Machakos, East Africa; and the Key to the City of Matanzas, given to Hemingway when he arrived on the Ile de France in 1957. It was awarded by the Mayoress of Matanzas, Olga Taquechel, and the presentation was made by the poet Carisa Oliver Labra, holder of Cuba's National Prize for Literature, whose beautiful eyes Hemingway praised. Eight hunting trophies hang on the walls of these two rooms.

Hemingway kept track of his weight and other details (e.g., "five days without dieting," "after 500 exercises, "without slippers or pajamas") on his bathroom wall. His notes indicate that between 1955 and 1960, he went from 245 to 190.5 pounds (the last measurement is dated 24 July 1960). The most recent restoration work here, based on a photograph, uncovered further annotations on the bathroom's southern wall, including notes by Hemingway's son Gregory (Gigi) in the 1940s, Gianfranco Ivancich and Roberto Herrera Sotolongo in the 1950s, as well as Hemingway himself.

On a small shelf is a strange specimen, a local lizard, the Cuban green chipojo (Anolis equestris, the knight anole), that was injured in a fight with one of Hemingway's cats. Hemingway preserved it in ajar of formalin and kept the lizard in his bathroom, where it testifies to his interest in natural history and catches the attention of the Museum's visitors.

The Library

In 1954, Mary Hemingway decided to turn this room into a library in 1954. Her designs for the furniture were executed by the Cuban carpenter Francisco Castro, working in a native wood called majagua (Hibiscus tiliaceus). Many of the library's approximately nine thousand items (books, magazines, pamphlets) have marginalia by Hemingway, or are dedicated to him by important contemporary writers. The collection reflects his broad interests: hunting, fishing, bullfighting, war, the sciences, art, and literature. The items are idiosyncratically arranged.

The largest art work in the library is a bullfight poster, "Toros en San Sebastian" (250 by 112 cm, or 100 by almost 45 in.), by C. Ruano Llopis. (9) It faces whoever sits at the library's long desk, showing them the full figure of a bullfighter, dressed in blue and gold, on the right, as he performs the pase de muerte on a bull whose head and horns face the spectator. (10) The poster announces two bullfights, the first on 4 September 1927 and the second a week later, and identifies the acting matadors: Valencia II, Nicanor Villalta, Felix Rodriguez, Juan Belmonte, Jose Belmonte, and Joaquin Rodriguez (Cagancho). (11)

The library also displays two original 20th century oil paintings. One is a Cuban landscape, oil on wood (60 by 44 cm, or 24 by almost 18 in.), called Escena callejera (Street Scene). It is the work of the Venezuelan artist Alfredo Lopez Mendez (1901-1996), who lived several years in Cuba, and it is dedicated to the Hemingways, with signature and date: "Para los Sres. Hemingway con el afecto, Lopez Mendez/33." Apparently the only work by this artist that remains in Cuba, the painting shows an almost empty village street which stretches out into the distance. In the foreground we see the back of a man in a white shirt and a white hat who leans on the wooden post of a covered porch, holding the reins of a white horse; to his left are two seated, shadowy figures, one in white, one in light brown. (12)

The library holds another oil painting, La gallina y la herradura (The Hen and the Horseshoe), by the Dutch painter Raoul Hynckes (1893-1973). The large oil painting (102 by 85.5 cm, or 41 by 34 in.) shows a decapitated dead hen hanging upside down in a window, to be drained of its blood; a horseshoe is attached to window, on the left side of the painting, and some drops of blood have fallen on the knife which rests on the stone window ledge. Wormeaten planks add atmosphere to the scene. In his autobiography, De Vriedem van Middernocht (The Midnight Friends, 1973), Hynckes tells how, during World War IX, he acquired the hen which appears in his painting. After the war, this dreamy canvas (Hynckes' art falls into the school or category of magic realism) was sold to Hemingway through Hynckes's publishing house, Holkema, in Warendorf, in 1949. Hynckes wrote that "Hemingway died in tragic and mysterious circumstances, in 1961. As to my hen, I don't know what became of it." (13)

Other items of artistic and historic significance in the library include a white ceramic plate with a relief head of a fighting bull (42.5 cm or 17 in. diameter) from Picasso's studio, acquired in Paris in 1957 for only $150; and a wooden African sculpture (34.5 by 8 by 16.5 cm, or almost 14 by 3 by 6 ? in.), signed "Sepy (Africa)" which stands on a bookcase. (14) Called Vigia (Sentinel), it shows a crouching or squatting African figure, with wavy hair, its elbows on its knees and its hands on the ears. The sculpture has two functions: to protect the house when its owner is absent, and to protect the owner from illness and danger when he is hunting. According to Rene Villarreal, the position is that assumed by sentinels in African jungles. The house's African theme is continued by a leopard skin draped over a couch. The desk displays an ink pad and its accompanying famous rubber stamp that reads "I never write letters," a claim belied by the several thousand letters Hemingway is known to have written.

The Guest Room

This room served Hemingway's many cats until 1947, when the Tower was built. Thereafter, it became a real guest room, although guests were also housed in the adjacent bungalow. Like the rest of the house, the decor here is simple and reflects the writer's interests.

Hemingway's Cuban life is reflected in the small oil painting Vista de La Habana (View of Havana, 18 by 25.5 cm, or 7 by 10 in.), which shows the city from the northern terrace of Finca Vigia. It is signed by the English painter, Osborne, and dated 1949. A larger painting is the Retrato de Hemingway (Portrait Of Hemingway, 73 by 51 cm, or 29 by 20 in., c. 1950), an oil by the Cuban Oscar Villarreal, the brother of Rene Villarreal who served as Hemingway's butler and right hand man at the Finca Vigia and whose prodigious memory has been very useful to the curators of the Hemingway Museum. The painting presents a front view of a seated Hemingway, dressed for the hunt, a rifle in his right hand while his left forearm rests on a recently killed tiger. (15) Ala. antelope head hangs to the left of the painting.

Hemingway's interest in the Spanish bullfight, evident in almost every room of the house, is represented here by a small copy (18 by 25.5 cm, or 7 by 1o in., oil on metal) of a painting by the Spanish artist Eugenio Lucas Velazquez. (16) As its title indicates, Muerte de Pepe-Hillo (Death of Pepe-Hillo) shows the gored bullfighter lying on the sand; the large crowd in the bullring testifies to Pepe-Hillo's tremendous popularity.

Snowy Egrets (1947), signed by the Chinese Hsien-Chi T'seng, is a watercolor on paper (50 by 70 cm, or 20 by 28 in.) depicting two snowy egrets in flight against a gray background, with some fine-leaved branches in ochre. T'seng (born 1919) held an M.A. from Harvard and was a research fellow in the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, which holds much of his work, although he is also represented in the permanent collections of other American museums. This painting was a gift to Hemingway from his friend and fellow submarine-hunter, Winston "Wolf" Guest.

Several Masai objects rest upon the chest of drawers, including a warrior's arm bracelet made of wood, vegetable fibers, and brightly-colored beads; a smaller bracelet (to be worn on the wrist), and a headpiece of leather and beads. One of the bookcases displays a Makonde funeral mask from Mozambique. (17)

The Dining Room

Martha Gellhorn designed the Spanish-style furnishings of this large, airy room. The long table is set with the Hemingway silver, crystal, and china, ordered from the prestigious Venetian glassmaking company Salviati (established in 1859). Napkins, plates, and the silverware display the family crest, a design which includes three stylized hills (to foreign visitors, Hemingway would explain that they represent Montparnasse, Montmartre, and Saint Genevieve, the three hills of Paris; to Cuban visitors, he would report that they stand for the three hills of San Francisco de Paula), an arrowhead which recalls the Native Americans (mostly Ojibwa) with whom Hemingway spent his early years, and the stripes which recall the honorary ranks of Lieutenant and Captain he held in the First and Second World Wars. Of the tableware which bears this design, only four or five silver place settings remain at the Finca Vigia, enough to set the tableas the Hemingways used to. Mary took these dishes when she left Cuba, leaving only a few behind, and the remainder seem to have been broken en route to, or after arrival in Idaho.

Another set of tableware, which the Museum usually displays, has marine motifs. These imported dishes have an interesting history. When the original shipment arrived in Cuba, two families claimed it. After some discussion between Ernest Hemingway and Miriam de Quesada (from the other family of claimants), the owner of the store divided the shipment between them. In 2007, the Quesada family's dishes were acquired by a friend of the Museum who donated them to the Finca Vigia.

The dining room walls display eight impressive hunting trophies; they dominate the room. The one with the greatest literary import is probably the greater kudu (Tragelaphus strepsiceros) taken in Tanganyika's Masai Steppe, east of Kondoa, during the first African safari and described in Green Hills of Africa. (18) "This kudu got second prize and Mussolini expressed an interest in it,' says Rene Villarreal. (19) Other heads from the first safari are a Grant's gazelle (Gazella granti rayneyi) and an East African gerenuk or Waller's gazelle (Litocranius walleri). In addition, the room holds a wapiti or American elk (Cervus canadensis), most likely taken in Wyoming, in 1930; and two pronghorn American-antelopes (Antilocapra americana), both taken in Idaho 1941, a hunt recalled in Hemingway's essay "The Shot" (True, April 1951).


The Tower

At Mary's instigation, Eduardo Rivero and Alejandro Siblia designed and built the three-story Tower in 1947, with its outdoor circular staircase which affords a view of the entire Finca Vigia, its surroundings, the city of Havana, and even the seashore with its blue waters. Each of the Tower's three floors has one large room, four meters by four meters, and many windows.

The First Floor. The first floor of the Tower became a home for the Hemingways' fifty or sixty cats, all of whom had the letter "s" in their names (Boise, Ambrose, Missouri, and so on) because Hemingway claimed it made them more attentive and responsive. In 1981 the Tower's first floor became an exposition center for temporary exhibitions to mark important occasions: the author's birth and death dates, the anniversary of the founding of the Museum, the Day of National Culture, and International Hemingway Colloquia. The opening exhibit, held in 1981, was titled "Hemingway and the Spanish Civil War."

The Second Floor. In Hemingway's time, the second floor was a den /guestroom, where Gianfranco Ivancich, among others, occasionally took up residence. Recently refurbished, this room today focuses on Hemingway the fisherman, connecting his life, his work, and the museum pieces that speak to this topic.

In the first twenty years of the Museum's existence, we were impressed by the public's great interest in and frequent questions about fishing. The displays in the house proper focused on Hemingway's careers as journalist, war correspondent, hunter, bullfight aficionado, and writer, but not on the fishing which produced several articles and his great novel, The Old Man and the Sea. Spurred by this interest, we researched the Museum's holdings and produced a catalogue and a plan for an exhibit on the theme of fishing. On 21 July 1984, the permanent exhibit, "Hemingway and the Sea" was launched. Based on photographs from the Museum's collections and organized chronologically, it shows Hemingway, aged six, with his first fishing rod; the river and lake fishing of his childhood and adolescent years in Michigan; and his later fishing in the Gulf Stream, to which he was introduced by Joe Russell, owner of Sloppy Joe's Bar and of the charter fishing boat Anita. Thus the public becomes acquainted with the Hemingway who explored the waters of Cuba, especially the northwestern coastline and archipelagos, and Who so greatly admired the fishermen of Cojimar. The exhibit also features Gregorio Fuentes, the Pilar's second captain (the first was Carlos Gutierrez) and one of Hemingway's dearest friends, and presents a short history of the Ernest Hemingway International Fishing Tournament, established in 1950, at which time Hemingway agreed to have it carry his name. One of the exhibit's most famous photographs, taken in Barlovento, Havana, on 15 May 196o, records the only meeting between the writer and Fidel Castro Ruiz, then Prime Minister of the Republic of Cuba.

The Third Floor. Mary hoped that the large, cool, simply furnished study she created on the Tower's third floor would become a haven for her husband, distancing him from household activities and providing the privacy and quiet he needed for writing. But Hemingway had gotten used to working in his despacho in the main house, and he seldom used the Tower study. Today it displays tooled leather writing materials, made in the Basque provinces and bearing Hemingway's name; they sit on top of a chest of drawers. One of the bookshelves holds a valuable collection of books and pamphlets on military matters, the others a diverse collection of titles. There is a chaise lounge and plenty of natural light from the windows, which afford fine views of the surrounding countryside.

A wrought iron winding staircase leads onto the roof, which Mary used for sunbathing and from which "Hemingway occasionally shot turkey vultures (Cathartes aura). A waist-high wall encircles this area.

La Casita (The Bungalow-Garage)

The Bungalow. The two-story Bungalow was remodeled in the 1950s by Francisco Castro. Here also, each floor contains one room, though these are twice as big as the ones in the Tower, measuring four by eight meters. The first floor room served as a guest room where Hemingway's sons spent their vacations. When he visited in 1983, the oldest son, John Hemingway, recalled that he had left a good collection of fishing magazines in a circular rack on the first floor; it was still there. The room also has book shelves, two desks with drawers, and a cot with drawers under it, as on a boat.

Other guests who stayed in this room were the French philosophers Jean Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir; Gustavo Duran, the Spanish composer and a General in the International Brigades during the Spanish Civil War, and his wife; Valerie Hemingway, Hemingway's secretary and later his daughter-in-law; and the Cuban boxer Evelio Mustelier (Kid Tunero), (20) with his wife Yolette and their children. Paintings by the Musteliers' oldest son, Edouard Mustelier Yol, hang on the walls of the bungalow's first floor. They depict some of his father's important fights as well as Hemingway himself. Edouard Mustelier's oil Portrait of Hemingway (Retrato de Hemingway, 74 by 61 cm, or almost 30 by 24 ? in.) shows its subject holding a black cat. It is dated 1948.

The wall of the staircase displays Patrick Hemingway's self-portrait. Upstairs, there are two beds, separated by a large chest of drawers and flanked by night side tables. A. wardrobe, a book case, and a low small round table complete the furnishings. There is also a bathroom, still with its original fittings and original shower curtain.

The Garage. Built in the 19th century to house coaches and horses, the coachhouse became Hemingway's garage. Although Hemingway is reputed to have acquired a new car every year, this is probably an exaggeration. Over the years he is known to have owned a Lincoln Continental and a Plymouth pisicorre (21) (station wagon) to ferry Las estrellas de Gigi ("Gigi's All-Stars," the baseball team Hemingway organized in 1940), back and forth for games with the Hemingway's boys. He also had a Buick Roadmaster (in 1948) and a Chrysler New Yorker convertible (of which only 946 were built, making it a very rare car). Hemingway gave the Lincoln Continental to Dr. Stetmeyer, the family doctor who attended Patrick during his illness in Cuba; and he willed the Chrysler to his friend, Dr. Jose Luis Herrera Sotolongo, who later sold it; its new owners in turn sold it to the Nunez Gutierrez family, residents of San Miguel del Padron, the municipality to which the Finca Vigia belongs. This Chrysler is the only one of Hemingway's cars still in existence. The Museum is attempting to acquire it.

The Pool, the Canine Cemetery, and the Pavilion for the Pilar

The Pool. The pool, one of the oldest in Havana, was part of the property when Hemingway and Martha Gellhorn first rented it in 1939. It was popular with his third and fourth wives, his sons and friends, and he himself made good use of it, swimming the requisite half mile after his morning's work, taking the day's first drink poolside, and then resting and lunching with Mary in the shade of the pergola.

The Canine Cemetery. This was established when Hemingway's beloved Blackie (Black Dog) died. He was a black springer spaniel fond of resting at his master's feet in the living room when Hemingway read or listened to music. He also liked to accompany Hemingway in his nighttime walks on the Finca. Another Hemingway dog, Machakos, was shot by Batista's men in August 1957, when they came onto the grounds to inspect the Finca Vigia. The next dog to be buried in this little cemetery was Negrita (The Little Black Bitch), a mongrel much loved by Mary. Linda and her son, Neron, remained at the Finca after the Hemingways departure. When they died--Linda first, Neron a few years later--the Museum staff decided to bury them in the same place. (22)

The Pavilion for the Pilar. The thirty-eight-foot cabin cruiser Pilar, one of Hemingway's prized possessions, was built to his specifications by the Wheeler Shipyard, New York. It had a powerful Chrysler gasoline motor, built for speed, and 300-gallon fuel tanks and 100-gallon water tanks, to enable lengthy cruises on the Gulf Stream. The transom was lowered by one foot, to make it easier to hoist big fish aboard, and a large roller, more than six feet wide, serves the same purpose. Hemingway also asked for a hatch, to facilitate the storage of anchors and to provide ventilation to the forward cabin. In later years, he added a flying bridge.

The forward cabin has a double bed. The interior has a bath, a galley with its original insulated metal ice box, typical of the period, and a dining area whose benches convert into two bunks. The stern has two wide, long mattresses covered in waterproof material; these can also serve as beds. Finished in 1934, the boat was delivered by train to Miami and sailed from there to Key West.

As Hemingway's widow, Mary arranged for the Pilar to be given to the boat's captain of many years, Gregorio Fuentes, thus fulfilling a decision taken by Hemingway years earlier, when Hemingway and Fuentes had discussed what each would do upon the death of the other. Hemingway had promised Fuentes to keep the Pilar in good working order, as Fuentes had always done. Fuentes said he would "bring her to the Finca, put her on the tennis court, build some sort of house or shelter for her, and that way, anyone who comes to Havana and wants to see her, has to come to the Finca." (23) All this was done: the Pavilion was built on the tennis court, which had been damaged by the hurricane of 1949 and had not used since. Inaugurated on 13 November 1993, the Pavilion is the only structure added to the Finca Vigia after the departure of its owners. The Pilar underwent a thorough overhaul in the 1980s and is currently being restored again in situ.

Hemingway lived in the Finca Vigia longer than he lived anywhere else: it was his home. As Valerie Hemingway has said, "Finca Vigia meant everything to him. So much so, that when he returned to Spain in 1960, he was a different man. He loved every corner of this place and he loved our walks in these gardens. He loved this life which enabled him to work. When he was here, he was at peace with himself. I think the Finca was the only true home he had in his life." (24)

Hemingway knew his Finca, Cojimar, the Gulf Stream, La Habana and indeed, all of Cuba, very intimately. During the many years of his life here, from 1939 to 1960, the country and its idiosyncrasies seeped into his consciousness. Here he flourished as an artist and as a human being. The Cuban aspect of Hemingway is still, however, uncharted territory. One of the basic missions of the Museo Ernest Hemingway of Cuba is to present Ernest, or Ernesto, or simply Mister Way, to future generations, so that they may know, finally, what Cuba meant to this writer.


Alfonso Morales, Ada Rosa. "The Music that Hemingway Heard and Treasured." Paper read at the Finca Vigia. 1 June 2007.

Benemelis Varona, Martha. Catalogue of Records in the Museo Hemingway Collection, Finca Vigia. 1985.

Bredendick, Nancy. "How Paratexts Narrow the Gap Between Reader and Text." In A Companion to Hemingway's Death in the Afternoon. Ed. Miriam B. Mandel. Rochester, NY: Camden House, 2004. 211-214.

Gomez Noda, Maximo. Interview with Sara Pascual Canosa, Havana, 1 October 1985.

Mandel, Miriam B. Hemingway's Death in the Afternoon: The Complete Annotations. Lanham, MD and London: Scarecrow, 2002.

Reynolds, Michael. Hemingway: The American Homecoming. Cambridge, MA and Oxford, UK: Basil Blackwell, 1992.

Rodriguez Ferrero, Gladys. Interview with Rene Villarreal, San Francisco de Paula, April 2003. --. Interview with Valerie Hemingway, Havana, 9 March 2007.


Consejo Nacional de Patrimonio Cultural (Cuba)


(1.) An earlier, shorter version of this article, in its original Spanish, appeared in global/loader dated 9 August 2007 (the site was visited on 5 Sept 2007). The translation into English is by Miriam B. Mandel (Tel Aviv University).

(2.) Official records of Dockings, Morro Castle, 1927-1928, p. 436 (31 July 1927 to 2 May 1928).

(3.) Interview with Sara Pascual Canosa, conducted by Maximo Gomez Noda, Havana, 1 October 1985.

(4.) Translator's Note: For an insightful analysis of the painting and the dust jacket, see Bredendick.

(5.) Translator's Note: Some of these paintings, and many other details of the Finca Vigia, can be seen at the excellent virtual tour available at See also (look for Hemingway items).

(6.) Translator's Note: Quintanar de la Orden was then a small town in the province of Toledo, in La Mancha; it was and is noted for its cheese. Its annual fiestas are in August. Hemingway was in Spain from 17 August to 20 October 1933 (Reynolds, The 1930s 309) and probably acquired this poster then. The poster announces a major bullfighting event, as in 1933 Domingo Ortega (1908-1988) was Spain's top ranked bullfighter (a ranking he held for seven years: 1931, 1932, 1933, 1934, 1936, 1937, and 1940). The Mexican matador Fermin Espinosa (Armillita Chico, 1911-1978) also ranked high in 1933, performing in 53 corridas; he outranked Ortega in 1935, when he took the top rank (a position he shared with Manolo Bienvenida). A mano a mano between these two bullfighters was certainly a major event. I have not been able to ascertain if Hemingway saw that particular corrida.

(7.) Martha Benemelis Varona, Catalogue of Records in the Museo Hemingway Collection, Finca Vigia, 1985. See also Hilary K. Justice, "Music at the Finca Vigia: A Preliminary Catalog of Hemingway's Audio Collection," The Hemingway Review 25.1 (Fall 2005): 96-108.

(8.) Ada Rosa Alfonso Rosales, "The Music that Hemingway Heard and Treasured," Paper read at the Finca Vigia, 1 June 2007.

(9.) Translator's Note: Spanish artist Carlos Ruano Llopis (1879-1950) painted many large canvases which were later used as the basis for posters announcing bullfights. Both he and Roberto Domingo were leading taurine artists of their day, and among the very few whose fame outlived them. Their work has been collected in, among other volumes, Daniel Medina's El arte de Carlos Ruano Llopis and Maria Dolores Agusti's Roberto Domingo: Arte y trapio.

(10.) Translator's Note: This poster is depicted in Gerard de Cortanza and Jean-Bernard Naudin's Hemingway in Cuba (France: Editions du Chene, 1997), 83. The book devotes several pages to interior views of Hemingway's house.

(11.) Translator's Note: Most of these bullfighters are discussed in Death in the Afternoon. Valencia II is the nickname of Victoriano Roger 1898-1936). Hemingway and Pauline Pfeiffer, recently married, attended the September fights in San Sebastian (Reynolds xii) and probably acquired the poster at that time.

(12.) Translator's Note: The picture, as well as other details of the Finca, may be viewed at

(13.) The Museum received a photocopy of Hynckes's account, "De Kip van Hemingway" ("Hemingway's Hen") from the Dutch Embassy to Cuba in 1986.

(14.) Translator's Note: Although Villarreal seems to recall that Hemingway brought the statue back from an African safari, it may actually be a Cuban product, reflecting the strong African influence on Cuba's native art. Sepy may be the signature of the Hungarian-born and (probably self-styled) Count Sepy Dobronyi, a sculptor, jeweller, photographer, and ladies' man who was the founder of Havana's Bodeguita del Medio, which Hemingway later made famous. Sepy Dobronyi had a colorful career: he is said to have moved in Hugh Hefner's circles, to have sculpted a famous statue of Anita Ekberg, and to have produced movies such as Deep Throat (parts of which may have been filmed in his wine cellar) and Cuban Rebel Girls (1959).

(15.) Translator's Note: The painting is reproduced in Franc Niche and Michel Renaudeau's Cuba (Italy: Taschen GmbH, 2001), 35. Pages 34-35 of this book are dedicated to the Finca Vigia.

(16.) Translator's Note: This 19th century artist (1817-1870) painted scenes depicting important moments in the history of Spain (e.g., war scenes, scenes of the Inquisition) and traditional Spanish themes such as the bullfight. Jose Delgado (1754-1801), better known as Pepe-Hillo, was one of the great bullfighters of the 18th century, as popular as his contemporary Pedro Romero, whose name Hemingway used for the bullfighter in The Sun Also Rises. On 11 May 1801, Pepe-Hillo was horribly gored in the chest and abdomen; he died within minutes. His art was described and defined by Jose de la Tixera, in La tauromaquia o Arte de torear de Pepe-Hillo (1796), a book Hemingway mentions in Death in the Afternoon. Pepe-Hillo was a southerner, from the outskirts of Seville, and displayed all the grace and superstition traditionally associated with Sevillian bullfighters. The original Muerte de Pepe-Hillo hangs in the Museo Taurino de Sevilla; the painting in Finca Vigia is a copy, probably acquired in Spain.

(17.) Translator's Note: Makonde carvings are usually made of local African blackwood, or mpingo (Dalbergia melanoxlon), and frequently take the shape of ceremonial masks ( August 2007).

(18.) Gift to the Museum by Mary Hemingway, August 1961.

(19.) Interview with Rene Villarreal, conducted by Gladys Rodriguez Ferrero, San Francisco de Paula, April 2003.

(20.) Translator's Note: Kid Tunero, also knows as el caballero del ring (the gentleman of the ring) was born in Cuba in 1910 and died in Barcelona in 1991. His international career includes 98 wins, 32 losses, and 15 draws ( August 2007). Valerie Hemingway supplied the information that the Hemingways referred to the structure as la casita (the little house; interview 27 January 2008).

(21.) Translator's Note: pisicorre is a contraction of two verbs, pisar and correr, in the second person singular, pisa y corre (step and run). In the Caribbean, the word has a variety of related meanings. In Puerto Rico it is a minibus, something like a carro publico (public car), which stops at designated places (you just step in and go). In Cuba it generally refers to a station wagon, which has an automatic transmission (you just step on the gas and it runs) and is large enough to ferry people around. The word also exists in Nicaragua, where it means "a short stay in one place" ("Las palabras compuestas en el espanol de Nicaragua" 27 July 2007). The word is absent from Spain's official Diccionario de la lengua espanola (Real Academia Espanola), 21st and 2nd eds.

(22.) Black Dog died in late 1956 (Baker, Life 537, 663). In a letter of 28 June 1957, Hemingway wrote, "I'd trade all the honours in this world for two good bottles of claret a day and to have my Black Dog back again young and well and not buried down at the pool alongside the tennis court" (Baker, SL 878). Valerie Hemingway, who lived at the Finca with the Hemingways for seven months in 1960 and 1961, recalls that at that time the family pets then included two house cats named Cristobal Colon and Ambrosio Bierce (interview with Valerie Hemingway, 27 January 2008).

(23.) Interview with Gregorio Fuentes, conducted by Maximo Gomez Noda, Cojimar, 1985.

(24.) Interview with Valerie Hemingway, conducted by Gladys Rodriguez Ferrero, Havana, 9 March 2007.
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Author:Ferrero, Gladys Rodriguez
Publication:The Hemingway Review
Geographic Code:5CUBA
Date:Mar 22, 2008
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