Thursday, December 26, 2013

Hemmingway: The Old Man and the Desert

I recently watched the movie, Hemmingway & Gellhorn, which had been on my to-do list since its debut in 2012. I was reminded of the movie after writing a blog post about my 2009 trip to Cuba where I was fortunate to get a private tour of Ernest Hemmingway’s home in Havana.

I enjoyed the movie and, no surprise, I particularly appreciated the scenes of Hemmingway and Martha Gellhorn at the Havana home they shared.
Ernest Hemmingway's home in Havana 2009
The movie also renewed my curiosity about a rumor I encountered while researching my family history. I never took the rumor seriously because it seemed so incredulous. As the story goes, Ernest Hemmingway once stayed for a period of time in the tiny western New Mexico village of Cubero. Of course, Cubero means something to me because my Grandpa Louie was born and raised in the village near Grants. Generations of my maternal Chavez ancestors were among the original settlers of Cubero.

I figured it was possible that Hemmingway could have stopped over in Cubero in the early 1950s. But I can’t bring myself to believe the claim that Hemmingway wrote his famous short novel, The Old Man and the Sea, from the desert Southwest. When I was in Cuba, it was a thrill to see a copy of the classic book on the shelves of Hemmingway’s bedroom in Havana. I can’t imagine he would have written The Old Man and the Sea any place other than Havana.
Cubero, NM 2011

Over the years, others have explored the rumor about Hemmingway and Cubero. A local blogger went to Cubero on a fact-finding mission in 2009. A resident of Clovis wrote about the rumor in a 1996 edition of the Hemingway Newsletter, a publication of the Hemingway Society. In the footnotes, Kathy Willingham says he couldn’t find any evidence that Hemmingway visited New Mexico, much less stayed in Cubero. “Either the biographers have missed something or New Mexico has some of the best liars,” she wrote.

While I don't claim to have done extensive research on a visit to Cubero, I can say with certainty that he did, indeed, visit New Mexico, thanks to a friend at the New Mexico State Records Center and Archives. After a quick search of newspapers, she discovered that Hemmingway visited Santa Fe from Sun Valley, Idaho in February 1948 – four years before he published The Old Man and the Sea, most likely in Havana. He won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1953.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Christmas Gifts

There’s no doubt that my family is fully engaged in the commercialization of Christmas, like it or not. But it’s good to see signs that my daughters also embrace the true spirit of giving gifts and showing compassion for friends and family.

We finally made it back to the National Cemetery in Santa Fe to see the new headstone for Grandpa Carlos and Grandma Rise. Despite the cold, wintery weather, it was a nice visit, especially for Isabella. She had been anxiously waiting to leave some special gifts for her great-grandparents.

We looked forward to seeing the headstone during a trip to Santa Fe in September. Bella had planned on leaving a rosary on the headstone, but forgot it at home that day. Following breakfast, we made our way to the Cathedral to get another rosary, but we didn’t want to interrupt mass. So we made a last-ditch effort to find something at the Five-and-Dime on the plaza. Sure enough, Bella found two stones, one with a cross and another with a heart, as well as a rosary. But we chose the wrong day because the annual Fiestas parade blocked traffic and the entrance to the cemetery for hours. Bella was heartbroken and cried on our way back to Albuquerque.
Isabella places mementos on the headstone of her great-grandparents

Carin and Isabella

This past weekend, we went back to Santa Fe to shop for Christmas gifts and grab breakfast at the Pantry. This time, we made it to the National Cemetery, and got a chance to see the headstone. Unfortunately, it was so cold, we couldn’t spend much time there. But Bella was able to get leave the stones and the rosary. After we got back in the car, she sent photos to my Dad, her Papi, and said she was sad and that she missed Grandma Rise. My Dad was touched, and wrote back that he’s sure his parents, Bella’s great-grandparents, were thankful that she thought about them at Christmas.