Portrait of Hemingway and one of his kills at the Finca Vigía in San Francisco de Paula, Habana.
Ernest Hemingway was born in Oak Park, Illinois, in 1899. After graduating from high school in 1917, he became a reporter for the Kansas City Star, but he left his job within a few months to volunteer in Italy during World War I (1914-1918), first as an ambulance driver and then as a soldier. After being seriously wounded and recovering at the war's end, he served as a correspondent for the Toronto Star and then settled in Paris. It was there that he began writing creatively along side a group of Americans that now made their homes in Paris, including the writers Ezra Pound, F. Scott Fitzgerald and Gertrude Stein. His first major work, The Sun Also Rises (1926), depicted the running of the bulls at the Fiesta de San Fermín in Pamplona, Spain, and became a widely acclaimed novel about the group of disillusioned young Americans and Europeans known as The Lost Generation. After the success of the The Sun Also Rises, Hemingway spent long periods of time in Key West, Florida, and in Spain and Africa, and he became known as an adventurer for his love of the bullfight, ocean fishing, and big game hunting. During the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939), he returned to Spain as a journalist and wrote his fictionalized account of the war — For Whom the Bell Tolls (1940). In World War II he again was a correspondent and afterward he continued to write, winning the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1954. He died of a self-inflicted gunshot in Ketchum, Idaho, in 1961.
Hemingway, one of the most influential writers of the 20th century, was an admirer of the Hispanic culture. Throughout his life he navigated in and out of the Spanish-speaking peoples, first in Spain and then in Cuba. Hemingway lived in Cuba beginning in the late 1930s at the Hotel Ambos Mundos at the intersection of Mercaderes and Obispo in Old Havana. His room on the fifth floor is now a museum. Hemingway also frequented two bars in Old Havana that he made internationally famous through his writings: El Floridita and La Bodeguita del Medio. In 1940, using $18,500 he earned from For Whom the Bell Tolls, Hemingway purchased the Finca Vigía in San Francisco de Paula, a suburb that lies ten kilometers southeast of Habana. It was at the Finca that he kept his fishing boat the Pilar, which he would berth at Cojimar, a small village to the east of Habana, and immortalize in his Nobel Prize winning novel, The Old Man and the Sea . In 1960, the Cold War tensions between the United States and Cuba forced the American writer to choose between his birth home and his home of choice. Hemingway left Cuba, and his "home", for good. From his experiences in and around the Caribbean island he wrote the novels To Have and Have Not (1937, about the contraband trade between Cuba and Florida) , Islands in the Stream (1970, about his World War II adventures in the Caribbean as a German submarine spotter), and, most famously , The Old Man and the Sea (1952). Today Hemingway is idolized by Cubans and the marina in the Miramar section of Havana bears his name, as does the annual fishing contest that takes place there. Hemingway's short story collection bares the name of his Cuban home — Finca Vigía .