Former official: Reduce Cuba tensions
By Brooke Prescott, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Posted on Mon, Jul. 18, 2005.
Wayne Smith, former chief of the U.S. Interests
Section in Havana, spoke in Coral Gables
on Sunday urging normal relations between
the United States and Cuba.
During an event at the Biltmore Hotel,
Smith called for a change in U.S. policy
toward Cuba beginning with the easing of
travel restrictions and, ultimately, ending
the trade embargo on the island.
''We should reduce tensions, not aggravate
it, making it clear to the Cuban government
that we do not have hostile intentions toward
them,'' Smith said during a 40-minute speech
at a conference titled Cuba and the United
States: Relations in Permanent Conflict,
Causes, Effects and Solutions.
''I did not say lift the embargo without
conditions,'' he said.
Many Cuban exiles support the embargo as
a legitimate foreign policy tool to pressure
the Cuban government into allowing changes
that would bring democracy to the communist-controlled
The conference was sponsored by the Greater
Miami Free Speech Coalition. Alberto Fernandez,
a member of the group's steering committee,
said the organization
JFK artifacts recovered
Items belonging to President Kennedy --
including a map of Cuba -- have been found
and placed in his archives
By Jenna Russell, Boston Globe. Posted
on Mon, Jul. 18, 2005.
The map of Cuba, displayed at the Kennedy
Library and Museum, bears the marks of history:
a series of X marks in black ink, crosshatched
east and west of Havana by President John
F. Kennedy, and two foreboding words scrawled
above them: "missile sites.''
A priceless artifact of the Cuban missile
crisis, the map was used by Kennedy during
a Cabinet briefing on the morning of Oct.
16, 1962, as CIA officials described the
evidence, discovered by spy planes.
A more vital piece of U.S. history would
be hard to find. But not long ago, the map
was unknown to the museum and was up for
grabs, listed for sale on the Internet for
Its arrival at the Kennedy library, with
thousands of pages of documents and a half-dozen
other long-missing items, seemed to close
the book on a bitter, long-running dispute.
For almost a decade, the library and the
Kennedy family have sought the return of
presidential papers and possessions taken
by the president's former secretary, Evelyn
Lincoln, and willed to her friend and fellow
collector, Robert White, after her death.
When White died two years ago, library
leaders saw an opportunity and asked lawyers
for the National Archives to intervene in
the settlement of his estate. The rewards,
unveiled to reporters last Wednesday but
not on public display, include the Cuba
map; a pair of gilded eagle bookends used
in the Oval Office; a brown suede glove
worn by Kennedy at his inauguration; and
his worn copy of ''Why England Slept,''
his book based on his thesis at Harvard.
''These are precious artifacts which should
have been here all along but which were
wrongfully removed,'' said Deborah Leff,
director of the library. "They belong
to the American people.''
The Cuba map -- sold by White to another
collector, discovered online by a National
Archives researcher and recovered after
two years of litigation -- was the most
exciting find, curator Frank Rigg said.
''It takes me right to that moment, when
he was trying to digest that information,''
he said. "Who knows what was going
through his mind?''
While key artifacts were returned to the
museum, the terms of the settlement allowed
the collector's widow to keep thousands
of other items. The widow, Jacquelyn White,
plans to auction them off in New York in
December, her lawyer, Robert M. Adler, said.
Among them will be a watch worn by Kennedy
at his inauguration and flags that flew
on his limousine in Dallas the day he was
assassinated, Adler said.
The story of the lost fragments of Kennedy
history is one of betrayal, according to
family members, who once considered the
president's secretary a friend. Raised on
a farm in Nebraska, Lincoln attended college
in Washington, D.C., and worked for Kennedy
from 1953, for his first term in the Senate,
until 1963, when she accompanied him on
his trip to Dallas. In a letter to the secretary
after her husband's death, Jacqueline Kennedy
wrote that the memories she shared with
Lincoln "will bind us together for
Described by those who knew her as a ''presidential
pack rat,'' Lincoln saved even Kennedy doodles.
After his death, she was hired by the government
to oversee the processing of his papers.
This took four years, and it was probably
then, National Archives general counsel
Gary M. Stern said, that she took home documents
and objects that belonged to the government.
''The library was absolutely aware that
she had a substantial collection,'' Adler
Ignoring embargo, Americans film in
American filmmakers who
shot a movie in Cuba and will screen it
today at the American Black Film Festival
may have violated the 45-year-old economic
By Daniel Chang, email@example.com.
Posted on Sat, Jul. 16, 2005.
What may be the first American feature
film made in Cuba since Fidel Castro's revolution
will screen at the American Black Film Festival
on Miami Beach today.
Not since 1959, when actor Errol Flynn
made his last picture, Cuban Rebel Girls
(tag line: "Filmed during the heaviest
fighting of the Cuban revolution''), has
an American filmmaker shot a movie on the
communist island, say the creators of Love
& Suicide, a romantic drama shot in
Havana over 12 days in December 2003.
It's not that Tinsel Town has no interest
in the Land of Tobacco and Rum. Hollywood
heavyweights from Steven Spielberg and Stephen
Soderbergh to Francis Ford Coppola and Sydney
Pollack have expressed a desire to make
movies in Cuba.
But Cuba has been off-limits to American
filmmakers with commercial motives since
the U.S. government imposed an embargo against
the island in 1960.
Some independent filmmakers, though, are
ignoring the embargo.
Luis Moro, a Cuban American filmmaker from
Los Angeles, filmed Love & Suicide while
attending the 2003 Havana International
Film Festival, which was screening one of
his earlier movies, Anne B. Real.
Moro traveled to Cuba with about 10 Americans
-- actors, a director, a cinematographer.
While there, they used wireless microphones
and a digital camera the size of a shoebox
to film 15 hours of scenes in the streets
and parks of Old Havana, in cabs, bars and
The filmmakers say they did not cooperate
with the Cuban government.
''Nobody bothered us about anything. .
. . We looked like tourists,'' said director
Lisa France. "We weren't trying to
For American filmmakers, Cuba long has
radiated an otherworldly appeal.
Scene after scene in Love & Suicide
portray a picturesque island: fishermen's
dories bob in shimmering Havana Harbor,
majestic waves crash over the el Malecón
seawall, a setting sun casts the coastal
Morro Castle in silhouette. The film portrays
the fictional narrative of Tomás
(played by actor Kamar de los Reyes), a
distraught New Yorker who travels to Cuba
with the intention of taking his life but
ends up falling in love with Nina (played
by actress Daisy McCrackin) and rediscovering
his ancestral roots.
Long before Love & Suicide, American
filmmakers publicly expressed desires to
film on the island but were forbidden because
of the U.S. embargo. Pollack's Havana and
Coppola's Godfather II, for instance, have
scenes set in Cuba and both directors reportedly
wanted to film on the island.
To be sure, films made in Cuba have screened
in American theaters before -- including
the 1999 documentary Buena Vista Social
Club, which was produced by a German company
in partnership with Cuba's Instituto Cubano
del Arte e Industrias Cinematográficos,
Those films were distributed in American
theaters under a cultural exemption to the
embargo that allows U.S. companies to buy
completed films, recordings and art, and
participate in their distribution.
But Americans are prohibited from directly
financing or producing a film in Cuba.
And while the U.S. Department of the Treasury
has issued licenses for American filmmakers
to work in Cuba in the past, those licenses
are limited to filmmakers engaged in noncommercial,
Molly Millerwise, a Treasury department
spokeswoman, has not seen Love & Suicide.
But, she said, "U.S. persons must have
a specific or general license from the Treasury
department to travel to Cuba. If not they
may face civil monetary penalties or criminal
Moro and France say they did not knowingly
break the law.
Young Cuban filmmakers say they have worked
on the island without the government's knowledge
-- largely by using guerrilla techniques.
''I basically shoot indoors. I shoot in
areas that are not problematic,'' said Miguel
Coyula, 27, who left Cuba in 2002 and said
he made 12 short films while living there.
Coyula, who now lives in New York City,
made his last film in Cuba in 2001. He plans
to visit the island in January.
Asked if he plans a movie, Coyula quickly
''Oh yes,'' he said, "I'm planning
to shoot there.''
Cuba trip ends with no games
A rugby team from Naples
returned from Cuba confused and disappointed
after games it expected to play never materialized.
By Cammy Clark, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Posted on Sun, Jul. 17, 2005.
The Naples Rugby Football Club practiced
in the heat and humidity of Havana, ate
two pigs during a team barbecue at the beach
and went on a historical-sights tour in
a fleet of horse-drawn carriages.
Most of the players even rode out Hurricane
Dennis in their rooms at Hotel Vedado, while
drinking rum and beer and watching radar
of the storm pass over them on CNN before
the electricity went out.
But the once-in-a-lifetime trip to Cuba
to play four rugby games -- one of which
was to be against the Cuban National Team
on the Fourth of July at Jose Marti Stadium
-- ended with the Cuban ministry of sports
canceling all scheduled competition.
The reason remains a mystery to the U.S.
''They wouldn't even meet with us; they
didn't offer us an explanation,'' said player
Sean Reddick, who also organized the trip
and acquired the necessary amateur sports
license to compete in Cuba from the U.S.
Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control.
''It's frustrating, but we'll continue
to ask why,'' Reddick said.
The 45-person Naples-based team, which
included five players from Miami and four
from Key West, was angry it didn't get a
chance to play after spending $1,100 each
for the nine-day trip as well as giving
up several Saturdays for practice and vacation
''I wish I was able to tell you about a
hard-hitting competition,'' said Bill McDonough,
captain of the Key West Rugby Club. "The
guys would much rather be nursing bruises
than nursing hangovers.''
Reddick also was concerned about how the
fiasco "will affect the way the world
looks at Cuban rugby.''
The Cubans are in the midst of trying to
become members of the International Rugby
Board and join the Caribbean Union.
''I don't think it's any fault of the Cuban
rugby team,'' Reddick said. "They were
pretty much victimized, too.''
NO EARLY CONCERNS
The team arrived in Havana via a charter
flight from Miami on July 2. At that point,
things still seemed to be going according
to plan with the exception that the team
was not allowed to use a field to practice.
Team captain Wadie Zacca, a Miami-based
estate lawyer, said he wasn't concerned
because the rugby goal posts were in place.
But on Sunday, Reddick got a phone call
from Chukin Chao Campanioni, director of
Cuban Rugby Development and the person who
extended to the Naples team the formal invitation
to play, who told him the games were canceled
and offered no reason.
The Cubans also were not allowed to attend
a joint team dinner planned for later that
night and a joint team barbecue planned
for two days later.
Some players surmised that the reason was
''Here we are, 45 guys coming off a plane
from Miami,'' Zacca said. "A reporter
from AP was there and went over to the Cuban
side to try to get interviews with those
"In my opinion, having us play them
on July 4 was a bit too overwhelming. For
us, it was not a matter of winning on July
4. We just wanted to play.''
ATTEMPT TO SALVAGE
Reddick said all along there was no political
agenda. The goal was simply to promote rugby
in Cuba. To that end, Reddick wrote a letter,
inviting Cuban President Fidel Castro to
Reddick spent July 4 and 5 trying to salvage
the rare sports opportunity he had worked
on for months. He went to ''Cuba Deportes,''
the ministry of sports, to try to talk with
the official who canceled the games. He
never got past the secretary, although the
official did talk briefly with a Spanish-speaking
According to Reddick, the official told
the player that "he didn't know we
Reddick said: "That's untrue. I have
e-mails that we notified them. And the official
was offended by [The Herald's] article.''
In that article, Cuban American National
Foundation executive director Alfredo Mesa
was quoted as saying that inviting Castro
was "like inviting Osama bin Laden
to view the reconstruction of the World
But the article ran July 4. The games had
been canceled July 3.
A couple of players and the French coach
of the Cuban team visited some of the Naples
players, who gave them a bag full of clothing.
''One of our guys told the French coach
who spoke pretty good English, 'If we were
in Miami or Florida and President Bush said
we can't play the Cuban team, we would have
told Bush, "Sorry, but we're playing.''
' That's the big difference between here
and there,'' Zacca said.
The team practiced July 5 in hopes of playing,
but by Wednesday the focus changed from
rugby to evacuation. Hurricane Dennis was
heading straight for the island nation.
Eight players were able to catch flights
home before the storm hit last Friday, but
the rest were stranded to ride it out. The
night before it hit, the players watched
a packed free Air Supply concert in the
pouring rain at a stage near the Malecon,
Havana's famed seawall.
They finally got home last Sunday.
''The trip is something you can definitely
tell your kids about someday,'' said McDonough,
who flew to Miami via the Bahamas and then
rented a car to Key West to secure his home
just before the hurricane arrived. "But
it's not what we wanted. I really wish we
had an answer as to what the decision was
and why it was made. But we know we may
never get that.''
Visas offered to war hero's Cuban sons
The State Department
has offered the sons of a Cuban-American
war hero fast-track visas so they can visit
him in the United States.
By Pablo Bachelet, email@example.com.
Posted on Sat, Jul. 16, 2005.
WASHINGTON - The State Department is making
the unusual offer of giving expedited visas
to the Cuban sons of Iraq war hero Sgt.
Carlos Lazo so they can visit him in the
United States, people familiar with the
case said Friday.
The offer is the latest twist in a case
that opponents of the U.S. embargo against
Cuba have highlighted as a symbol of the
human cost of travel restrictions to the
island. The move is unusual because it is
the U.S. government that has reached out
to the Lazo family with the offer, rather
than the other way around. Critics say the
Bush administration and its congressional
allies are simply trying to take an embarrassing
case out of the public spotlight.
In a phone interview with The Herald, Lazo
confirmed that his sons, Carlos Manuel,
19, and Carlos Rafael, 16, have been invited
to the U.S. Interest Section in Havana for
an interview on Monday to explore visa options.
A National Guard medic who received a bronze
star for helping injured troops while under
fire in Fallujah, Lazo tried and failed
to visit his sons last year, just before
new regulations went into place that limited
family visits at once every three years.
Lazo had been visiting his sons regularly
He renewed his campaign again in March,
when his younger son was hospitalized for
10 days for a viral infection.
''I think the restrictions are unjust,
cruel, leave no room for humanitarian exceptions,
and in addition attack my right as a U.S.
citizen to travel,'' he said.
Lazo's photo, clad in bandanna and combat
fatigues, was a regular fixture in last
month's House and Senate floor debates on
the travel restrictions. Opponents of the
measures argued that the travel curbs needlessly
separate families while doing little to
weaken the government of Fidel Castro.
Supporters of the measures say Castro uses
the money from travelers to sustain a repressive
communist regime. Legislative initiatives
aimed at easing the restrictions failed
to pass Congress last month.
Lazo has met with more than 50 members
of Congress, including one 40-minute encounter
with Florida Sen. Mel Martínez. It
was Martínez, Lazo said, who first
proposed having his sons visit their father
in the United States.
''I am aware of the State Department's
process,'' Martínez said in an e-mail.
"My office will help in any way we
can within the limits of current U.S. policy
toward Cuba. I believe it would be good
for his sons to visit a free society and
a free country.''
Kevin Whitaker, who heads the Cuban affairs
office at the Department of State, spoke
with Lazo on two occasions about the effort
to give his sons visas.
The State Department declined to comment
on the visa offer, saying they do not speak
about visa-related cases.
Opponents of the travel ban say the Bush
administration is motivated by more than
just humanitarian considerations in a case
that raises questions over just how many
more fast-track visas the State Department
is willing to award to families whose needs
are as urgent as Lazo's but less high-profile.
''They want to get this story off the radar
screen,'' said Sarah Stephens, who heads
the Center for International Policy's Freedom
to Travel Campaign, an advocacy group that
argues for more contact with the island.
Lazo said he initially turned down Martínez's
offer because his kids were in school, but
now he is hopeful the reunion can take place
during the summer vacations. He has sent
his sons money to apply for passports but
worries that it will all come to naught
because Cuban regulations forbid draft-age
youngsters from leaving the island.
Washington, which Lazo says is well aware
of the Cuban laws, could then blame Havana
for refusing to let his sons travel to the
''I trust that people have the best of
intentions,'' said Lazo, who spent a year
in a Cuban jail for trying to flee the country
in 1988. ''But the road to hell is paved
with good intentions,'' he added.
Cubans losing patience with Castro
Daily blackouts, ongoing
financial woes and Hurricane Dennis have
helped fan the flames of discontent among
Cubans, many of whom blame Fidel Castro
for their problems.
By Marc Frank, Financial
Times. Posted on Sat, Jul. 16, 2005.
Record summer heat has combined with hurricanes,
relentless power cuts, water shortages and
crumbling housing to tax Cubans' traditional
patience with President Fidel Castro's government
and the strains caused by the U.S. embargo.
''I've never seen people talk this way
about Fidel. That they want his head. Most
of them really do not mean it. It's more
like they are really frustrated with their
father,'' a Havana housewife said the other
night sitting in her pitch-black home in
the La Lisa district.
Castro raised expectations this year when
he announced a big increase in reserves,
centralized control of foreign exchange
and alliances with China, while oil-rich
Venezuela finally put an end to Cuba's 15-year
crisis that followed the Soviet Union's
CHRONIC ENERGY WOES
The Cuban leader, who turns 79 next month
and has been in power for 46 years, said
hundreds of millions were being spent to
ensure the chronic energy shortage that
marked the crisis would improve by the holiday
months of July and August and disappear
completely within a year.
Castro also increased most state salaries
and pensions, announced plans to improve
free healthcare strained by the absence
of thousands of doctors sent to Venezuela
and promised to shore up waterworks and
transport and build 50,000 homes a year.
But since May, daily blackouts of six,
12 and even 18 hours have left Cubans miserable
and expectations dashed, even as millions
live with little if any running water due
to a long drought and then suffer leaky
roofs when it does rain.
Cuba's power grid simply cannot meet demand.
Obsolete plants need constant maintenance
and burn a sulfur-ridden local fuel that
clogs and destroys equipment. Breakdowns
throw the entire system into crisis.
Small, scattered protests have taken place
from one end of the island to the other,
unusual events in this tightly controlled
''A few people have been putting up anti-government
posters and stirring people up,'' a nurse
in the central part of the country said.
A Havana resident said people were throwing
bottles from his high-rise apartment complex
when the lights went out at night.
A rare July hurricane, Dennis, has made
matters worse, killing 16 people, causing
$1.4 billion in damage, destroying 15,000
homes and cutting power lines between the
east and west of the country.
A recent National Housing Institute report
said 500,000 new homes were needed and 43
percent of the current stock was in mediocre
or poor shape, due in part to six hurricanes
in less than five years that damaged or
destroyed hundreds of thousands of dwellings.
''Dennis multiplied the problems. We are
still without water, the blackouts are just
as bad, if not worse, and the storm blew
away what little we managed to plant in
recent weeks,'' said Antonio, a government-supporting
pensioner in drought-stricken eastern Holguin
Above-normal June rains combined with Dennis
eased the impact of the worst drought in
a century. This saw two million of Cuba's
11 million citizens fetching water from
trucks and turned the island's lush greens
into ugly yellows and browns, forcing the
government to almost double food imports
that already accounted for 50 percent of
the local diet.
Panel: Miami trial of Cubans unfair
A U.N. human rights group
has concluded that the trial in Miami and
subsequent imprisonment of five alleged
Cuban spies were flawed.
Posted on Fri, Jul. 15,
GENEVA - (AP) -- The U.S. detention of
five Cubans convicted in a Miami trial of
being spies is arbitrary and in violation
of international law, according to a U.N.
panel ruling obtained by The Associated
The judgment by the U.N. Working Group
on Arbitrary Detention found that the Cubans
-- convicted in 2001 on charges of trying
to infiltrate U.S. military bases and Cuban
exile groups in South Florida -- were denied
full access to evidence and to their lawyers.
The working group is one of several sections
within the Geneva-based U.N. Commission
on Human Rights. Its makeup was not immediately
known but its top official, Leila Zerrougui,
an Algerian magistrate, has the title of
Zerrougui told the AP by phone from Algeria
that she could not comment on the decision
because it was sent to the U.S. government
The Herald's efforts to reach some of the
Miami prosecutors and defense lawyers involved
in the trial were unsuccessful Thursday.
The ruling, which cannot be enforced under
international law, urged the U.S. government
to "adopt the necessary steps to remedy
the situation, in conformity with principles
stated in the International Covenant on
Civil and Political Rights.''
In its ruling, the panel found that the
Cubans' trial "did not take place in
the climate of objectivity and impartiality
which is required in order to conclude on
the observance of the standards of a fair
The ruling concluded that these failings
"are of such gravity that they confer
the deprivation of liberty of these five
persons an arbitrary character.''
Geraldo Hernández, Antonio Guerrero,
Ramón Labanino, Fernando González
and René González were arrested
in September 1998 as part of the so-called
They are serving sentences ranging from
15 years to life.
The Cuban government has been carrying
on a publicity campaign defending the five
Protests lead to arrests in Cuba
At least 11 Havana residents
were detained for participating in demonstrations
By Nancy San Martin, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Posted on Fri, Jul. 15, 2005.
At least 11 protesters who participated
in demonstrations in Havana commemorating
a deadly 1994 tugboat sinking remained in
custody Thursday, according to a human rights
activist on the island.
The arrests came after clashes Wednesday
along the seaside Malecón highway
between a small group of protesters and
a much larger contingency of government
supporters, as well as a separate, more
violent incident near the Plaza de la Revolución
in central Havana.
Elizardo Sánchez, head of the Cuban
Commission on Human Rights and National
Reconciliation in Havana, said his organization
confirmed the detention of 11 people, including
two women, but have reports of as many as
''There are no charges against them and
they remain incommunicado from family members,''
Sánchez told The Herald in a phone
Sánchez said the repressive actions
-- veiled as counter-protests -- were carried
out in four separate incidents, three of
them along the Malecón and a fourth
near the Plaza de la Revolución that
involved ''punching and kicking'' by rapid-response
''It is a great pity that the Cuban government's
fear of its own people prompts it to attack
people who were simply demanding their own
human rights,'' Kevin Whitaker, the State
Department's coordinator of Cuban affairs,
said Thursday on Radio Martí.
The hostile acts were similar to a verbal
attack in March against the wives of some
of the 75 dissidents imprisoned in 2003.
About 150 members of the state-run Federation
of Women surrounded the wives, known as
the ''Ladies in White,'' and shouted insults
and slogans as the wives tried to carry
out a silent protest to bring attention
to their plight.
Beatriz Pedroso, wife of imprisoned dissident
Julio César Gálvez, said that
''tempers are flaring'' as the country continues
to struggle with extended blackouts and
a shortage of food, made worse by Hurricane
Several spontaneous anti-government acts,
including vandalism against government buildings,
have been reported across the island in
''The scarcities are worse than ever. We
just got rid of one hurricane, but we've
been dealing with another one for more than
40 years,'' Pedroso said by phone from Havana.
Herald translator Renato Perez contributed
to this report.
Cubans, Americans unite to save Hemingway
have offered Cuba help in shoring up Ernest
Hemingway's beloved home outside of Havana.
By Amy Driscoll, email@example.com.
Posted on Thu, Jul. 14, 2005.
The yellow-tiled room where Ernest Hemingway
stood to write For Whom the Bell Tolls is
empty now, his house stripped of its books
and bull-fighting posters and bottle of
Gordon's gin that stayed right where he
left them for more than four decades after
The famous artifacts have been tucked safely
away, preservationists say, as part of a
rare joint effort by Cubans and Americans
to save the rotting Havana villa that Hemingway
called home through 20-plus years, two wives
and the 1954 Nobel Prize for literature.
''This is a unique literary shrine -- one-of-a-kind,''
said Jenny Phillips, chairman of the board
of the Hemingway Preservation Foundation
and granddaughter of Hemingway's editor
and friend, Max Perkins. "If it isn't
preserved, it may be lost forever.''
The author's beloved Finca Vigía,
or Lookout Farm, suffers from structural
problems and damage from tropical weather,
most recently Hurricane Dennis. Built in
1886, the building's walls are crumbling,
the pool is empty and the roof leaks, especially
in Hemingway's writing room. Experts have
called it a preservation emergency.
The Cuban government has begun restoration
work but Americans like Phillips want to
help, offering expertise and -- eventually,
they hope -- financial resources.
''We see it as a shared responsibility,''
Last month, the National Trust for Historic
Preservation placed the home, used as a
museum since Hemingway's death in 1961,
on its annual list of endangered historic
sites. It was the first time a non-American
property has made the list.
''Even though the finca sits on foreign
soil, it's a part of our heritage as well
as the heritage of the Cuban people,'' explained
Paul Edmondson, vice president and general
counsel for the trust. "It was the
house Hemingway lived in longest, and he
loved it the best. He felt a great connection
The house, located in a suburb about 12
miles outside of Havana, played a significant
role in Hemingway's literary life and swashbuckling
persona. More than his homes in Key West
and later in Ketchum, Idaho, the finca fed
his creativity and stirred his imagination
with its abundance of mango and avocado
trees and proximity to the ocean, scholars
say. He wrote The Old Man and the Sea there,
basing it on a Cuban fisherman, and it won
him the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 1953.
A year later, he won the Nobel Prize and
donated the medal to the Cuban people.
He wrote other books, too -- Islands in
the Stream and Across the River and Into
the Trees -- and reveled in the sun-drenched
daily life of the finca. In one room, he
kept a lizard preserved in a jar of formaldehyde,
honored for its heroic, if losing, battle
with one of Hemingway's many cats. He entertained
celebrity friends at the house -- Ava Gardner
reportedly once swam naked in its pool.
The Cuban Ministry of Culture and the Council
on National Patrimony have already begun
leading the first round of conservation
work on the property and its colorful contents,
the stuff of Hemingway scholars' dreams:
animal skins and game trophies, rifles,
his Royal typewriter and artwork, plus 2,000
letters, 3,000 photos and 9,000 books with
handwritten notes in the margins. The bathroom
wall bears meticulous, penciled notations
of his weight and blood pressure. Outside,
his beloved boat, the Pilar, is on display.
Under a 2002 agreement coordinated by the
Social Science Research Council of New York,
U.S. preservationists are assisting the
Cubans in conserving documents and photos
from the house. They're being digitally
copied and the originals preserved to halt
deterioration, with the work financed by
grants from the Rockefeller and Ford foundations.
A set of copies will be sent to the John
F. Kennedy Library and Museum in Boston,
where a large collection of Hemingway research
materials -- much of it brought from Cuba
by Mary Hemingway after her husband's suicide
-- already resides. The originals eventually
will be returned to the house in Cuba.
The second phase of preservation -- the
house itself -- has been complicated by
the U.S. trade embargo of Cuba. An application
by the Hemingway foundation to travel to
Cuba for the project last year was turned
But in June, after the National Trust joined
the application, the Bush administration
agreed to allow a team of architects and
engineers to go to Cuba to consult on the
project. The five-person U.S. team made
one trip earlier this summer and plans at
least two others before the license expires
The group does not have permission to bring
financial support into the country but plans
to apply for a new license in the fall that
would include that provision.
''It's not political -- it's a cultural
project that overrides politics,'' Phillips
said. "It's just absolutely unique.''
Cuban school children make field trips
to the museum to study ''Papa'' and his
influence on world literature, she said.
But U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros Lehtinen, R-Fla.,
thinks Americans have no business working
in Fidel Castro's Cuba, no matter how good
''I'm against the whole operation -- engineers
and architects, anybody who's going down
there to fix a tourist site. And that's
what it is, a tourist site,'' she said.
"It's only going to help increase Castro's
tourism industry, and that's how Castro
stays in power.''
She said she plans to meet with National
Trust leaders within weeks to discuss the
For Phillips, the drive to save Hemingway's
house started with the tug of family ties.
On a trip to Cuba in 2001, she and her husband
made a spur-of-the-moment decision to see
the home, since her grandfather had been
Hemingway's editor. Because of their connection,
they were given a guided tour.
Astonished at the richness of the artifact
collection and captivated by the intimacy
of the house, she and her husband started
the Concord, Mass.-based foundation and
began working toward preservation of the
''This has been kind of a personal mission
for me. It's been very gratifying,'' Phillips
Perhaps even more so for Hemingway scholars
in the United States, who soon will have
access to vast amounts of new material from
''He wrote many of the masterpieces there.
It was really the center of his writing
life from 1939 on,'' said Sandra Spanier,
professor of English at Pennsylvania State
University and general editor of the Hemingway
Letters Project, an ambitious plan to publish
12 volumes of his letters.
''He himself talked about why he loved
living in Cuba, because he worked better
in the early morning air, with the breeze
coming through the hilltops,'' she said.
Cubans remember him as much for his whole-hearted
embrace of the people as for his literary
Rene Villarreal, who served as ''major
domo'' of Finca Vigía and became
the first curator of the museum after Hemingway's
death, said the author adopted the Cuban
people as his own.
After a chance first encounter -- he met
Hemingway when he asked the famous writer
for help to buy baseball equipment -- he
went on to run the household. During his
time there, Villarreal met movie stars Gary
Cooper and Spencer Tracy, helped care for
Hemingway's 50-plus cats and went to cockfights
with him and his famous pals.
When locals couldn't afford a funeral,
Hemingway paid, he said, and when Villarreal
got married, Hemingway urged the bride-to-be
to "take care of my Cuban son.''
After Hemingway's death, Villarreal continued
to watch over the house as museum curator.
''He was very much loved -- by the world
but especially by the townspeople,'' he
Villarreal and his son, Raul, have written
the story of his years with the man he called
''Papa'' and are hoping to sell it to a
''The best time of my life was with him
at the finca,'' Villarreal recalled from
his home outside New York City. "He
was a friend to the Cuban people and he
will never be forgotten.''