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Around Havana

Updated: May 11

Our visit to the Hemingway museum was both a hit and a miss. Yes we had checked the hours and yes the museum should have been open, but alas when we arrived we were told it was closed, to come back tomorrow. C'est la vie.

Ernest Hemingway spent 30 years in Cuba, writing seven of his books on the island, including The Old Man and the Sea. He purchased his home outside Havana in 1940 and named it Finca Vigia or "lookout farm" which is now a museum. I peered down the long driveway toward his former home, realizing that this is certainly one shiny spot in the U.S. Cuban history. We may consider Hemingway one of our heroes but the Cubans certainly consider him one of their heroes as well. Hemingway referred to himself as "Cubano Sato" or a garden variety Cuban. He was in residence in Cuba when he learned he had received the 1954 Nobel Prize for Literature. Wishing to donate his 23-karat gold prize to the people of Cuba, he gifted it to the Catholic Church where it remains on display outside Santiago. Fidel Castro both met and appreciated Hemingway, revealing to Hemingway that he had personally used tactics described in For Whom the Bell Tolls. We could have returned to the museum the next day but the three of us were unanimous in deciding against that option.

Our visit to Finca Vigia was a big hit because we not only enjoyed being at the site of Hemingway's tropical home but also because we adored the ten mile drive both to and from the museum, different routes of course. The photo above is of the neighborhood surrounding the museum.

Remember the case of Elian Gonzalez? He was a young boy, born to divorced parents in Cuba, and was only six years old when the United States and Cuba became ensnared in a custody case over him. His father in Cuba wanted custody of his son but the child's relatives in Miami wanted the same. His mother had tragically drowned trying to escape Cuba just the year before. Elian had left Cuba with his mother, her boyfriend and a dozen or so others on a small boat but Elian was one of only three survivors. Initially placed with his relatives in Miami, the ultimate U.S. Court system decision was that custody should be granted to his remaining biological parent in Cuba. Some have speculated that this case may have ultimately determined the United States presidential election of 2000. Remember the close Florida count? Where is Elian now? In Cuba, professing his love for Fidel Castro "like a father", and blasting the U.S. for the embargo which he believes led to the difficult situation in Havana, causing people like his mother to try to escape. He has become a Cuban icon and hero. This statue depicts Jose Marti holding a child representing Elian Gonzalez in one arm with his arm outstretched accusingly to the U.S. Interests Section Office. This statue is one element in the Tribuna Anti-Imperialista plaza.

Yes there is a Christ of Havana statue, overlooking the bay in Havana. It is carved of the white Carrara marble that we saw so much of in the Cementerio de Cristobal Colon.

But this one took me by surprise. I did a double and triple take, thinking I must be imagining Moscow, but no we were still in Havana. Surprisingly to me this is the Sinagoga Centro Hebreo Sephardi or the Sephardic Jewish Synagogue. They support struggling Jewish families in Cuba, offering prayer services, a senior center and a free public pharmacy. All interesting to me, as well as the cars in front.

All in all, a few hours well spent on our educational venture in Havana.

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