- will grant
- BBC World, Havana
It is usually a tourist destination, but a few days ago Finca Vigía, the house of American writer Ernest Hemingway in Havana, received two special guests: the novelist’s grandsons, John and Patrick, who traveled to Cuba to celebrate the 60th anniversary of that his grandfather received the Nobel Prize for Literature.
And with them came a group of marine scientists from the United States who also have an interest in Hemingway’s writings.
But not in his novels, like «The Old Man and the Sea,» but in his diaries and fisherman’s notebooks on the Cuban coast.
In them they believe that they can find key data to study the evolution of the populations of some species of fish in the Caribbean.
«When people think of Hemingway, they think of the ‘great white hunter’, the trophies on the wall, the photos of him with lions and buffaloes or his tales of bullfighting in Pamplona,» Jeffrey Boutwell tells BBC Mundo , one of the main scientists in the delegation.
«But there is a side to Hemingway as a naturalist that many are unaware of.»
Biologists believe that Hemingway’s logbooks from his Caribbean voyages aboard his famous ship ‘El Pilar’ could represent a veritable treasure trove of information on changes in the health of marlin (also known as marlin) species. and related to swordfish), tuna, emperor fish, and sharks in the Florida Straits.
«He was a very meticulous man,» says Dr. Boutwell.
«In his journals you will find his observations of weather conditions, the fauna in the Florida Straits, the tides, the currents.»
«Hopefully we’ll be able to see a lot of what was there in the 1930s, ’40s and ’50s when Hemingway fished there that might not be there today, due to overfishing and pollution.»
the favorite sailfish
Species like the white marlin –one of the most emblematic predators of the Atlantic Ocean also called sailfish– suffered a lot during the 1970s.
Commercial tuna fleets used to inadvertently catch white and blue marlin in their nets, which would cause significant damage to the species Ernest Hemingway loved most.
This is a point confirmed by David Die, a marine biologist at the University of Miami.
«I think Hemingway was a conservationist,» says the Spanish scientist.
«Like all the people of his time, by fishing he showed his love for nature, his love for the sea, his love for his fish. That’s what all the conservationists of his time did.»
For Professor Die, the contents of the notebooks can be invaluable, containing a «list of relative changes in the size and abundance of fish over a period for which we have more information.»
Cultural and scientific legacy
On this occasion, the US scientists did not have access to the author’s diaries – old and fragile documents – which are part of Cuba’s cultural heritage and are kept in special rooms to protect them from the island’s humidity and sun.
Only specialized conservators are allowed to touch them.
But experts are confident that they will be able to study them in the future.
«I am sure that Hemingway wanted these resources to be maintained for new generations, and that he would have liked to know that this information he collected was based on managing these resources,» says David Die.
Culture is one of the areas in which there has been more collaboration between the United States and Cuba since Washington cut diplomatic relations with the communist island, around the year that Hemingway left Cuba for good.
Finca Vigía itself is a good example.
The house that inspired one of the most important writers of the 20th century has been carefully preserved by the Cuban government, with the support of the Finca Vigía Foundation in the US.