Hemingway museum in Havana gets ready to receive tourists

Finca Vigía en La Habana, primer Museo dedicado a Hemingway

HAVANA, Nov. 17  Ernest Hemingway museum Finca Vigia reopened to international tourists Monday with social distancing guidelines after being closed to the public for the last seven months due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The American writer, who was awarded the Nobel Prize of Literature in 1954, lived for more than two decades in Finca Vigia, an estate on the outskirts of the country’s capital Havana which has been turned into a museum now.

Hemingway moved to Finca Vigia in 1939, where he found inspiration to write famous novels like The Old Man and the Sea, A Moveable Feast, and Islands in the Stream.

The museum preserves the world largest collection of Hemingway’s personal belongings and constitutes one of the major attractions for international tourists, Director of the museum Grisell Fraga told Xinhua.

“Once people get here, they feel embedded with the spirit of Ernest Hemingway, who had a very special connection with the Cuban people,” she said. “We are eager to receive foreign visitors again.”

In this regard, with the reopening of Havana’s Jose Marti International Airport on Nov. 15, thousands of international travellers are expected to visit the museum.

The centre is annually visited by nearly 150,000 tourists from all over the world who are eager to know about Hemingway’s stay in Cuba, which also includes iconic places like Ambos Mundos Hotel, as well as El Floridita and La Bodeguita del Medio bars.

“Aside from U.S. nationals, it is a must for Chinese and British visitors who feel very interested in expanding their knowledge about the life of the American writer,” said Tatiana Mena, an expert at the museum.

People who visit Hemingway’s retreat on the top of a small hill in San Francisco de Paula district will be able to see hunting trophies from African safaris, bookshelves with a small representation of the large number of books owned by the author, a ceramic piece signed by Picasso, and a dog cemetery.

Among other attractions, the museum exhibits the writer’s Pilar boat, which he used to chase U-boats in the Gulf of Mexico in the early 1940s and fish in the deep waters of the fishing town of Cojimar whose settlers and naive environment inspired his masterpiece The Old Man and the Sea.

Finca Vigia was also one of the main settings of Papa: Hemingway in Cuba, a 2015 Canadian-American biographical film, which sparked people’s interest in the American writer’s life.

Nowadays, workers at the estate are not only taking care of museum objects but performing different tasks, including landscaping and lawn mowing.

Isbel Ferreiro Garit, deputy director of the museum, said the 10-acre area houses a huge variety of ornamental plants and fruit trees, including nearly 20 varieties of mangoes.

“We try to preserve the same species from Hemingway’s times for people to feel they are travelling back in time,” she said.

Havana closed museums, theatres and movies two days after the pandemic broke out in the country on March 11.

But since early October, locals have been permitted to visit the Hemingway museum to get rid of social stress provoked by the virus and take a puff of pure air.

Among them is 47-year-old Pilar Ortiz, who works as a librarian at a polyclinic in El Cotorro district.

“I have read, once again, many novels written by Hemingway during the lockdown,” she said. “This place provides me with the full energy of someone that always believed a person can be destroyed but never defeated.”