By John Pilling, Havana Long Studio Instructor
Urban Farming and Papa Hemingway
We saw a different kind of art - horticulture - during our first stop of the day. More than 100,000 people live in the bedroom suburb of Alamar that’s about 4 kilometers east of La Habana Vieja. Notorious for its drab apartment block and remote location, Alamar is also praised for for a 10 hectare (25 Acre) ORGANIPO VIVERO DE ALAMAR. This co-op, managed by and for the benefit of its more than 150 working members, is one of the best known urban farms of those established after the withdrawal of the Soviet Union’s sponsorship of Cuba. Everything is grown using natural methods of pest control and fertilization. Our guide, an engineer who says he’s retired while still working full-time on the co-op, showed us their entire operation, including their California worms who transform their compost into humus. This Organiponico produces and sells more than one million pieces of produce each year, and it is part of a nation-wide system of local farms that have reduced Cuba’s dependence on imported food.
After our visit to the Organiponico, Horacio and Norberto took us to the village of Cojíimar. This fishing village is where Ernest Hemingway moored his sport fisherman, the “Pilar.” Cojímar’s landmarks include an 18th century fortress; a monument to Ernest Hemingway; and “La Teraza de Cojimar,” the restaurant at which he dined after returning from a morning’s fishing. Cojímar, and one old fisherman in particular, inspired the novela “The Old Man and the Sea,” for which Hemingway received the Nobel Prize. We had a nice lunch at “La Teraza” with all the other tourists, and then the Longstudieros explored the waterfront with sketches.
Having been introduced to Hemingway, we drove on to visit ‘Finca Vigia,” in San Francisco de Paula. The author’s wife, Martha Gellhorn, convinced him to rent this villa to get away from the drinking and fighting he enjoyed so much in La Habana Vieja. Eventually, he bought it, and added a tower with a writing room. The house remains much as it was the day he left for Ketchum, Idaho, where he died. The time we’d set aside for sketching and exploring got cut short by some serious cloudbursts.
We returned to the hotel by way of the old, main highway, which goes through the industrial districts south of the Harbor on the way to La Habana Vieja. After a short break, we were off to the Jardin del Oriente again(!) for dinner.