An effort to save the finca, an American cultural treasure and an important Cuban tourist attraction, seems threatened by a storm of politics.
Nature has been hostile to the house over the years, experts say, with rain and creeping vegetation penetrating the walls and the foundation. The roof leaks, the walls are turning green with mold, the floors are buckling and termites are devouring the wooden frame. The bedroom where Hemingway wrote some of his greatest works, including “The Old Man and the Sea,” is so close to collapsing that its furniture has been moved into storage.
Efforts were underway to have the house repaired:
A group of American preservationists, architects and Hemingway biographers offered to come to the rescue earlier this year. The Hemingway Preservation Foundation applied for a license that would exempt it from the United States’ 40-year-old economic embargo against Cuba and allow it to provide money and expertise to help restore the finca. The foundation, led by Frank and Jenny Phillips, estimates that the project would cost $2 million to $3 million.
But there is a problem. The house is a tourist attraction, thus, it provides the Castro regime with much needed cash:
The Bush administration denied the foundation’s request in June, saying its project would support tourism and thus help the economy of the hemisphere’s last Communist outpost.
Good for them. Let the damn thing crumble. It’s a rather harsh statement and sentiment, I know. I would have been a bit ambivalent about it had it not been for the following statement by Gladys Rodriguez, president of the Hemingway International Institute of Journalism in Havana and one of the principal caretakers of the author’s legacy in Cuba:
We will keep doing all that we can. But we cannot deny that we need help. This museum legally belongs to Cuba, but morally it pertains to the United States.
Well Ms. Rodriguez and co., if you confiscated it, it’s yours. You have no moral right to dictate morality in this case. It was your government that nationalized it and it is your government that benefits economically from it. You stole it and now it is yours. You want it fixed? Find yourself a hammer and have at it.
Don’t think that this isn’t difficult for me. I have always been a huge fan of Hemingway. I have every single one of his books. I have read every single one of his works. But, why should the Castro regime be allowed to profit from the man? Fidel didn’t write the Old Man and the Sea or For Whom the Bell Tolls. Fidel didnt buy the house.
I find Castro’s use of America’s love for one of its literary masters abhorrant. Yet even more despicable is Castro’s exploitation of Hemingway’s love for the Cuban people and culture. The Cuba of today is nothing like the Cuba that Papa left behind. Hemingway would have been heartbroken to see where that culture he so loved is today.
And I applaud this administration for having the balls to stand by their priniciples. As much of a cultural loss as it would be, the United States of America does not need Fidel Castro’s scraps.
One day, when the old masonry walls are but a rubble upon the ground, when there’s nothing save for overgrown weeds and vegetation sprouting where once the most beautiful literary flowers flourished, Fidel can offer Hemingway his respects through prayer.
Our nada, who art in nada, nada be thy name….