It’s not a hallucination, and you’re not seeing double. These men really do look like that writer from the United States. They are members of the Hemingway Look-Alike Society and they recently visited Havana, along with Brian Gordon, the actor who has most often played the Nobel laureate onstage. They came to the Cuban capital to participate in the 14th international colloquium honoring the author of For Whom the Bells Toll, and without question, they were the sensation of the event.
People stared at them, amazed, and asked to take their pictures with these fellows, who were as willing and accustomed as movies stars to these duties. As they admitted to OnCuba, they are happy to bring back the spirit of “Papa” to the people of Cuba and to experience the same sensations that united him to this country. “After everything I’ve learned here, I’ve become convinced that he fell in love with the Cuban people. This is my first trip, but I’ll be back to this wonderful place,” said Gregory Fawcet, the 2012 winner of a contest that has been held for the last 32 years at Sloppy Joe’s Bar in Key West (United States) to select the man who most looks like Hemingway.
Every July, to mark the writer’s birthday, a large group of gray-bearded men assemble in Key West, where Hemingway lived for long stretches at a time. In addition to enjoying the atmosphere created around the contest, they are fighting to keep his figure alive among the new generations.
“Kids and grandkids come to watch their granddads compete, and that is how we are able to make his memory endure. In our Society, we raise funds and offer scholarships for young people to study at Florida Cays Community College. Last year, for example, we granted a total of 10: five for literature and five for nursing,” Fawcet commented.
The contest also makes it possible to hold “a fabulous gathering of people like us who admire the strength and self-confidence of this novelist. We want to promote his example and give continuity to his ideals,” says Walter Collins. Some, like Fawcet, say Hemingway’s image is fading among young people, and “that is very sad, because in addition to being a magnificent writer, he was a man who could see beyond, a man who lived on after his death.”
The Hemingway Look-Alike Society has also enabled them to learn about the human side of author of The Old Man and the Sea. “I’ve written two articles that I never imagined I could write; one is about concussions and cranial trauma, as factors that contributed to his suicide in 1961. Overall, it has been a wonderful experience for me as a contestant and now as a researcher. And together with that, the possibility of visiting Cuba and learning about the places he frequented,” Collins said.
Drinking a daiquiri at Floridita bar/restaurant and a mojito at Lat Bodeguita del Medio, or enjoying a fried manjúa at Las Terrazas in Cojímar are some of the adventures that these chubby-cheeked and charismatic “doubles” have had in Cuba. Moreover, they visited Finca Vigía where according to Fawcet “the presence of the creator of A Farewell to Arms can still be felt.”
“He lived the life that he wanted on this island. He enjoyed its peacefulness and the cheerfulness of its people, and he had the pleasure of constantly putting his knowledge about fishing into practice,” said Stephen Terry. According to Collins, in Cuba, Hemingway “was in total control of his environment; he might not have had that opportunity elsewhere in the world.” And Brian Gordon reveals that has fallen head over heels in love with this land: “Now I have a lover; her name is Cuba.” Fawcet says he thinks the same thing happened to Hemingway, but “you have to see it to understand it; anybody who really wants to learn about him should visit the city where he lived for more than 20 years. It’s a life-changing experience.”
Once again, Havana has fired its Cupid’s arrow, and with its wiles, has brought Hemingway back to its streets, multiplied into these seven men who venerate the boxer and the hunter, the fisherman and the journalist, the writer and the human being that he was.