Our Connection to Hemingway
In the sun-soaked embrace of Key West, the great Ernest Hemingway found not just refuge and camaraderie, but in many ways became a a kind of kindred spirit with the island itself. A symbiotic relationship that would etch its influence over time, on both the man and the island.
In the 1930s, Hemingway's arrival infused a certain literary fervor into the tropical air of Key West. His abode a crucible where the salt-tinged breeze mingled with the clatter of typewriter keys.
Hemingway's days unfolded against a backdrop of the island’s blue-green waters and swaying palms, a setting that frequently seeped into his prose. Mornings often saw him heading out to sea, and on a lucky day he’d be wrestling with the formidable beauty of the marlin in the deep waters of the Gulf Stream. The adventures on the water were naturally followed by afternoons swapping fish tales at Sloppy Joe's, where he often held court with fellow writers and anglers.
Hemingway's robust, adventurous personality, combined with his literary achievements and penchant for dispensing wisdom and advice, contributed to the adoption of the paternal nickname, “Papa”. His beautiful two-story, open air home on the island is now known as the Hemingway Home and Museum. The Spanish-colonial style home stands as a living chronicle of those days preserving artifacts that echo with the writer's restless spirit. Hemingway's fabled six-toed cats, the descendants of his original companions, roam freely around the porches and property, their polydactyl presence a tangible link to the past.
Hemingway’s written word, stories, fish tales and friendships among fellow Key Westers were a force that shaped the island’s identity in many ways. He was an organic part of the island's narrative, and his legacy woven deep into the fabric of Old Key West.
While decades may have passed since his time living here, the island community remains steadfast in its celebration of this literary luminary. The annual Hemingway Days festival held every summer transforms Key West into a vibrant homage. Literary enthusiasts, bearded Hemingway look-alikes, and aficionados gather for contests and camaraderie—a collective nod honoring one of America’s greatest authors who, for a time, made Key West his muse.
Images courtesy of Getty Images & Keysweekly.com
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