Hemingway in the Caribbean

Ernest Miller Hemingway (July 21, 1899 – July 2, 1961) was an American journalist, novelist, short-story writer, and sportsman. Won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1954, many of his works are considered classics of American literature.

The current thaw in relations between Cuba and the United States and an influx of tourists from the U.S. has reignited interest in Hemingway's connection to Cuba, and in turn, his connections to Florida's Key West and Bimini, Bahamas. Take a tour of Hemingway's Caribbean haunts to see where he drew inspiration for some of his greatest works.

Hemingway with President Fidel Castro

Hemingway's Havana

Hemingway first visited Cuba in 1928 and eventually purchased an island home in 1940, which he dubbed Finca Vigia. The house presents an intimate portrait of the author, since it's filled with his most beloved memorabilia, books, paintings, and jazz and opera LPs. Hemingway's beloved 38-foot fishing boat, Pilar is also on view at the home.

Hemingway was fond of drink and there's a pair of Havana watering holes closely associated with the writer. He was a regular at Bodeguita del Medio and his portrait hangs on the wall behind the bar. The El Floridita is where Hemingway supposedly had a hand in creating the first daiquiris. A plaque in La Floridita contains Hemingway's signed quote: "My mojito in the Bodeguita del Medio and my daiquiri in the Floridita." In the corner of La Floridita, a life-size bronze statue of the writer leans an elbow on the bar, looking slightly bemused, waiting patiently for his bronze daiquiri.

Hemingway statue at the "La Florita, Cuba.

Bohemia in Key West

Hemingway fans from the U.S. will find it much easier to travel to Florida to visit the Ernest Hemingway Home & Museum. The house is one of the most visited attractions in Key West, and is included in the U.S. National Register of Historic Places. Hemingway arrived in Key West in 1928 and purchased the Spanish Colonial style home in 1931. Much like Finca Vigia in Havana, the Ernest Hemingway House provides a personal glimpse into the life of the writer. Key West also has a still-standing tavern deeply associated with Hemingway, Captain Tony's Saloon, which during the time it was frequented by Hemingway was called Sloppy Joe's Bar.

Hemingway's catch

Adrift in Bimini

While Hemingway lived in the Bahamas on North Bimini from 1935 to 1937, he never owned a house on the island, instead choosing to bunk down at the Compleat Angler Hotel. He was primarily on Bimini to satisfy his desire for deep sea fishing aboard his boat Pilar. Years after "Papa" was long gone, enthusiasts would book a room in the hotel to access the Hemingway magic. The hotel, which displayed memorabilia associated with Hemingway, unfortunately burned to the ground in 2006.

Hemingway "Pilar" fishing boat.

Connecting with Hemingway's legacy in the Caribbean should encompass more than touring famous sites associated with the author. Hemingway was a man of big appetites, and to do honor to his memory it's advised to hoist a few mojitos or daiquiris; perhaps venture out on a deep sea fishing trip in quest of marlin; and of course, dip into one or more of his books.