Courage is grace under pressure
(Le courage est la grâce malgré la pression)
by Ernest Hemingway
Hemingway’s first visit to Cuba was in 1928. It may have happened as a layover to Spain, as an exploratory trip to Key West by way of Cuba, or as the result of his second wife Pauline’s family connections. However it happened, it was his enthusiasm for sports fishing there that drew him to Cuba again in 1932 and 1933. When his “Esquire” voyage articles with Carlos Guiterrez became a hit, he purchased the Finca Vigia in 1941 and resided there until 1960, when the communist party nationalized the properties belonging to all Americans.
However, Hemingway was unable to attend the Nobel Awards Ceremony in Stockholm because he was suffering from severe injuries sustained in two successive plane accidents in Africa. He read a short acceptance speech over Cuban radio, and said in closing “a writer should write what he has to say and not speak it.”
While he recuperated, he paid homage to El Cobre Sanctuary near Santiago de Cuba. Here is what he told Cubans after the visit:
This is my true home. I traveled, with the medal, to Santiago de Cuba and entered the church. I knelt at the feet of the Patron Saint of Cuba and deposited the medal. Silently, I prayed for the protection, the peace and the prosperity of the warm, friendly, generous people of Cuba. In Cuba, the people accepted me unconditionally. I could breathe and be happy. It is my clear, well lighted place."
(The medal was displayed on the altar, but was stolen in the 1980s. It was safely recovered with Castro’s appeal, but had not been on public display since then.)
During the Cuban Revolution, President Kennedy made an exception and allowed Hemingway’s fourth wife Mary to return to Finca Vigia. The Cuban government approached Mary to gift the house to them, to be used as a monument to Hemingway. She negotiated Hemingway’s manuscripts from the house in exchange for the donation.
Shipment of the manuscripts was delayed because Cuba and U.S. teams (with special visas) had to collaborate on microfilming key manuscripts and the final shipping destination had not been determined. Upon her return to the U.S., Mary asked Jacqueline Onassis to store them at the JFK Presidential Library and Museum in Boston and the ‘Hemingway Archive’ was established. It was in the mid 1970’s that the Cuban documents were finally unpacked in Boston. Today Boston Library boasts 100,000 pages of writing and 10,000 photos, all digitized, for Hemingway scholars and researchers.