A dear friend, Carol Senese, emailed me a few months ago to say she was going to Cuba and would be visiting Finca Vigia, Hemingway’s home. She also volunteered to send me some photos. We had been discussing Paul Hendrickson’s recent book Hemingway’s Boat, 2011 National Book Critics Circle Award finalist for biography as well as a New York Times best-seller. Hendrickson, like Carol and myself, had been students at St. Louis University.
Carol decided she had to see Cuba after taking a class last winter in Naples, Florida on Cuban art and, as she wrote me, “became hooked.”
This was not Carol’s first “art trip” overseas. Since 1995, she has been going with an art history professor from a college near where she lives in Louisville; this time she convinced the professor and other students to go to Cuba, not for the fishing, but the art.
They made arrangements with Carol Damien of Florida International University who then involved Tony Ransola of “Bringing Hope” and arranged an eight-day tour, with Tony traveling as a guide.
Flying out of Miami, the “art students” took along 300 pounds of needed supplies: medicines, hygiene, and art products that they delivered to Catholic Charities in Havana.
As promised, Carol sent back to me photos from Cuba and Hemingway’s home. I thought you might like to see them and read some of what she had to say about visiting Finca Vigia.
“This first photo is of Hemingway’s room at the Hotel Ambos Mundos where he lived briefly in 1939 before Martha Gellhorn, his third wife, but not yet his wife, arrived from Key West. Shortly after she arrived, they rented Finca Vigia (Look out Farms) 15 miles or so from Havana.
“The day we spent at his home was fabulous…all windows and doors are open for pictures taking but no one is allowed inside.
“The view from Finca Vigia is of Havana in the distance and he would drive his Chrysler downtown in about 20 minute. Pilar, his boat, while registered in Key West, is still there. When Hemingway left Cuba in poor health he thought he was coming back, but, of course, he never did.
“The house and his belongings are willed to the people of Cuba. Pilar is all cleaned up, and his fighting chair has a new coat of green paint. It is placed under a large green plastic corrugated roofed shelter but easy to get very close. His four dogs have headstones nearby but no burial for Hemingway’s famous six toed cats, and no cats were in evidence on the grounds. The pool where Ava Gardner once famously swam nude is now drained of water.
The house is in pristine condition and seeing it gives one an emotional jolt. There is a typewriter in the four story tower annex that Martha built, but he never wrote there, preferring to use the Corona in his bedroom.
His bedroom has a double bed and shelves of books, and behind the bathroom door is the daily weight and blood pressure record that he kept once he started losing weight.
The dining room and living room have mounted animal heads from Africa, as well as more books everywhere. Pictures on tables reflect family times and his portraits are in several rooms.”
Thanks, Carol, for the quick tour for those of us who won’t make it to Finca Vigia. But then, knowing RPCVs, I’m sure many have already been to Lookout Farm, or will be in due course.