A Cuban View of Hemingway
MARIO MENOCAL’S GRANDFATHER had been a general in the Cuban war of independence against Spain and president of the country from 1913 to 1921. Mario’s wealthy, cultivated and aristocratic father, Mayito, was educated at Lawrenceville School and Cornell University, and became Hemingway’s sporting companion and best Cuban friend. While fishing in the Caribbean on Mayito’s large yacht, Delicias
, they would discuss pigeon shooting, jai alai, current books, local gossip, Cuban affairs and world politics while drinking gin with champagne chasers. Mayito went on Hemingway’s wartime sub-hunting expeditions, which he called a ‘stunt’, and accompanied him on his second African safari in 1953. Mayito’s son Mario – born in 1923, twenty-four years younger than Hemingway and the same age as his oldest son, Jack – was also educated in America. When Fidel Castro’s revolution in 1960 drove his family into exile, they lost their valuable sugar business, house and possessions. After leaving Cuba, Mario became an executive with PepsiCo and other companies, and a Spanish translator in Mexico City and Miami.
An eager and generous correspondent, Mario had ample opportunity to closely observe Hemingway and his elite circle of Cuban friends from 1940 to 1960. His letter of 18 April 1983 – elegantly composed, intelligent and perceptive – is the best one ever written about Hemingway. He is especially acute about Hemingway’s puritan character, relations with his son Gregory, African safari, sub-hunting in the Second World War and disastrous love for Adriana Ivancich as well as Martha Gellhorn’s provocative flirtations and Mary Welsh’s alcoholism. We disagreed about some important points, and I later found