February 2015 | Nate Pedersen

Newly Discovered Letter Proves Hemingway Home Gifted to Cuban People

Our current issue of Fine Books & Collections features a visit to Hemingway's Cuba, including "Finca Vigia," his home of 21 years on the outskirts of Havana. After Hemingway committed suicide in Kethum, Idaho in 1961, his fourth wife, Mary Hemingway, donated "Finca Vigia" to the Cuban people. 

Or at least that's what the Cuban government always claimed. 

Mary, however, had her own story.  She said after Hemingway committed suicide, the Cuban government contacted her in Idaho, informing her of its plans to expropriate all Hemingway property in Cuba, including the house. Mary negotiated with the Cuban government to remove some personal property, including Hemingway manuscripts left in a Havana vault, however the bulk of the estate was abandoned.

Well, it turns out Mary was misremembering. 

A document coming to auction this Wednesday at Alexander Historical Auctions proves that Mary did indeed donate "Finca Vigia" to the Cuban people. Lot 1397 from the February 11th sale in Maryland is an autographed letter from Mary Hemingway to the "People of Cuba" donating the family home to the government. It reads, in part, "...Whereas - my husband, Ernest Hemingway, was for twenty-five years a friend of the Pueblo of Cuba...he never took part in the politics of Cuba...he never sold any possessions of his, except his words, having given away cars, guns, books and his Nobel Prize Medal to the Virgen del Cobre...I believe that he would be pleased that his property...in Cuba be given to the people of Cuba...as a center for opportunities for wider education...to be maintained in his memory...I hereby give to the people of Cuba this property..."

The document was discovered amongst the papers of Robert Herrera, one of Hemingway's close friends while he lived in Cuba.

The estimate is $2,000-3,000.