There’s a sign in a small Havana tapas café, El Chonchullero that says via a sign near the door (slightly sarcastically) “Hemingway nunca estuvo aquí.” That translate to note that Hemingway was never there, but Papa Hemingway certainly is claimed by a very large number of the establishments in Cuba.
One charming Cuban town that does claim Hemingway has a good reason to. Cojimar, just a few minutes east of Havana is a picturesque fishing village where Hemingway docked his boat El Pilar. Not only did he use the town as a base for fishing, Cojimar was the background for one of his most famous works, The Old Man and the Sea. The ‘old man’ in the title is reputedly his guide Gregorio Fuentes, a Cojimar local.
All this is commemorated extensively at La Terraza, a reasonably hospitable bar/resto that would be a find in any small place, but is found in droves by tour buses. It’s no surprise really – the view from the seaside dining room overlooking the basin where El Pilar was moored is magnificent. The room is ringed with photos of Hemingway on fishing expeditions. For aficionados of Hemingway and his work, it’s a must see visit.
The atmosphere in the main area of the bar continues the theme in paintings including a Hemingway portrait. On the day I was there, there were even musicians doing a surprising take on The Eagles’ “Hotel California.” The photo of the famous meeting between Fidel and Ernest seals the deal.
The food, while not remarkable, is mostly from the sea and tastefully prepared; Fish and lobster cocktails, a nice fish soup and the like are quite edible sitting at the bar. Not a bad spot at all to follow the Hemingway trail. (There are a couple of other paladares recently opened in the town that will be the subject of future investigation.) Without the Nobel Prize winner’s heritage, Cojimar might be overlooked, although its narrow village street and front on the sea makes it quite picturesque. It has some moored local fishing boats and a small Castillo that is today used by the coast guard but beyond that the town encompasses just a few residential streets.
The small pavilion with the bust of Hemingway draws a lot of photo takers as well. If you don’t mind sharing the town with a few tour buses, Cojimar’s a fine place to do lunch and a stroll probably much as the author did when he came down to do some fishing. photos by AJ Twist