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.
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.
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.