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Produced & Maintained by Idaho Mountain Express, Box 1013, Ketchum, ID 83340-1013 
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Copyright © 2003 Express Publishing Inc.
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Wednesday — February 18, 2004


Hemingway group relishes Cuba agreement

Organization could see
many key documents

Express Staff Writer

Details were released this week about a cooperative agreement struck Feb. 7 that will allow a Ketchum-based non-profit organization to share information about author Ernest Hemingway with the curators of his estate in Cuba.

Martin Peterson, co-chairman of the Idaho Hemingway House Foundation, signs a memorandum of understanding with Dr. Marta Arjona Perez, president of the Cuban National Council of Cultural Heritage. Photo courtesy of Martin Peterson

Martin Peterson, co-chairman of the Idaho Hemingway House Foundation, returned Feb. 12 from a voyage to Cuba that he believes will procure an abundance of new information about the lives of Hemingway and his close acquaintances.

"Hemingway had two places in the latter part of his life: Idaho and Cuba," said Peterson, a Hemingway scholar who also serves as the assistant to the president of the University of Idaho.

The Idaho Hemingway House Foundation manages Hemingway’s former home in Ketchum, where he committed suicide in 1961.

Peterson traveled to Cuba to sign a "memorandum of understanding" with the Cuban government to improve the exchange of information about the acclaimed writer, who also had an estate on the outskirts of Havana.

The Cuban estate—called Finca Vigia—holds thousands of valuable Hemingway documents, including personal correspondence and manuscripts, Peterson said.

Peterson traveled to Finca Vigia with a group that included Idaho Republican Sen. Larry Craig and Rep. Butch Otter.

The agreement signed Feb. 7 by Peterson and Dr. Marta Arjona Perez, the president of the Cuban National Council of Cultural Heritage, notes that the two parties intend to share:

  • Historical and architectural documentation on the Idaho house and the Finca Vigia.

  • Photo documentation on the two houses and their contents.

  • Inventory lists of the contents of the two houses.

  • Details on historic preservation needs and activities at the two houses.

  • Information on Hemingway’s life in Idaho and Cuba.

  • Copies of oral history interviews relating to Hemingway in Idaho and Cuba.

In addition, the parties agreed to facilitate visits of Cuban and U.S. citizens to Idaho and Cuba to "study the life and works" of Hemingway.

Mariel Hemingway, granddaughter of the writer and co-chair of the Foundation board, submitted a letter of support to officials at the event.

"My grandfather loved Cuba and the Cuban people," she noted, "just as he loved Idaho and the people of Idaho. He considered both places to be his home."

Idaho Republican Rep. Butch Otter and Sen. Larry Craig stand beneath the stuffed head of a pronghorn antelope in Ernest Hemingway’s dining room at Finca Vigia, Cuba. Hemingway shot the pronghorn on a hunt in Idaho’s Pahsemeroi Valley, southeast of Challis. Photo courtesy of Martin Peterson

She added: "Few things troubled him more than the difficult relations that developed between Cuba and the United States toward the end of his life … The signing of this agreement is a wonderful tribute to my grandfather and I hope it marks the beginning of a close and productive relationship between the people of Cuba and the people of Idaho."

Peterson said: "A lot of this is going to depend on free and unrestricted travel to Cuba."

Hemingway rented Finca Vigia in 1939 and then purchased the home in 1942, after publication of the heralded novel "For Whom the Bell Tolls," Peterson said. Hemingway completed the novel while residing at the newly opened Sun Valley Lodge.

Hemingway, who resided at a variety of other locations in town over the years, purchased his Ketchum home, located on the west bank of the Big Wood River, in 1959.

Peterson—who negotiated the agreement last May—said his trip to Cuba included a three-hour meeting with Cuban leader Fidel Castro.

Hemingway, Peterson said, is considered a literary hero in Cuba.

"Every place that Hemingway went in Cuba has been duly noted and commemorated."

A resident of Boise, Peterson is also on the board of the Cuba Preservation Project, a Boston-based group that is likewise seeking to compile file copies from documents in the cellar at Finca Vigia.

Peterson said the Feb. 7 agreement will mostly foster sharing of file copies, but could eventually promote the exchange of original artifacts at the two homes.

Craig and Otter highlighted their trip by signing a memorandum of understanding that commits the Cuban government to buying at least $10 million worth of Idaho farm products.

Peterson called the Cuban’s treatment of the Idaho contingent a "tremendous compliment to the people of Idaho."


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