Museo Hemingway Finca Vigia
The author Ernest Hemingway was one of Cuba's most famous expats and he lived at this modest house in San Francisco de Paula from 1940 until shortly before he committed suicide in 1961.
Located in a small, working-class town ten miles east south outside Havana, much has been made of Hemingway's choice to live among locals (in a large house, it has to be said) and spend his days fishing with them. Today, the house sits in a plot of almost four hectares (10 acres) of indigenous plants.
Finca Vigía was Ernest Hemingway’s long-term residence in Cuba, where he spent most of his time in the island. He lived there until 1960, the year in which he travelled to Spain to attend a bullfighting event before eventually succumbing to the ailing of his disease. After feeling very ill he travelled to the United States where he was hospitalised, he never came back.
It is situated in a hill, were it used to be a Spanish army checkpoint, hence the name, which means "lookout house". The house was constructed in 1886 by a Spanish Architect. It cost Hemingway $18,500 when he left his residence at the Hotel Ambos Mundos in Havana. It was here that the author wrote some of his most famous work, including For Whom the Bell Tolls, The Old Man and the Sea and A Movable Feast.
After Hemingway's death, the wife fulfilling the wishes of him, donate the house to Cuban government. Despite officially becoming a museum in 1962, it suffered years of neglect. Eventually, renovation works began. Despite this, Finca Vigía is on the World Monuments Fund list of 100 Most Endangered sites, and The National Trust for Historic Preservation’s 11 Most Endangered Places.
The Hemingway Museum
Via the means of external terraces surrounded all the house, visitors can tour around the house. Although it is not possible to enter the rooms, from the outside, visitors can see the various rooms of the house, including the lounge, the library, dining room, guest room, Mary Welsh's room, Hemingway's workroom, the bathroom and kitchen. It has been restored in such a way that visitors can imagine that Hemingway just left.
The lounge features Hemingway's favourite easy chair next to a small bar and his collection of more than 900 records. The study features many souvenirs of Hemingway's travels, including animal heads which were trophies of his safari excursions in Africa. Hemingway wrote in his workroom mainly in the mornings, either standing directly at his typewriter or using a pencil.
In the Finca Vigía tower, the second floor is dedicated to an exhibition of the writer as a fisherman and the time he spent on his 38 ft (12 m) yacht, Pilar. The yacht can also be viewed at the museum. Pilar was the basis for The Old Man and the Sea, for which Hemingway received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1954.
With the help of democrat congressman, James McGovern, who has travelled to the island in various occasions over the last ten years, the Finca Vigía Foundation reached an agreement to restore and digitalise all of the documents that Hemingway kept in his Cuban residence. In total, approximately 3000 letters, manuscripts were compiled, as well as other documents such as the passport with which he travelled to Spain during the Civil War or the binnacle notebook from his yacht, Pilar.
In 2009 the digitalised copies of most of these documents were handed over to the John F. Kennedy library in Boston. Now, Phillips explains that the foundation wants to further collaborate in new projects, such as reviewing the contents of personal library that the Nobel Prize-winner had in Finca Vigía, with over 9,000 magazine issues, of which 20 per cent have personal annotations made by the author, according to museum curators.
San Francisco de Paula is located 10 miles (16 km) from central Havana. The Museum is open daily, with reduced hours on Sunday. Tour operators offer excursions to the museum or you can go by taxi, although the latter can be more expensive.
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