Hemingway's Cuba, Cuba's Hemingway- page 4 | People & Places | Smithsonian
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Hemingway's Cuba, Cuba's Hemingway

His last personal secretary returns to Havana and discovers that the novelist's mythic presence looms larger than ever

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On the flight home, I also thought about some of the things the three septuagenarian Gigi Stars had told me. Baseball was not part of my finca experience, but after Ernest, Mary and I left Cuba in July 1960 and made our way to New York City, one of the first people I met was Mickey Mantle. We had gone to Toots Shor's restaurant for a drink before heading to Madison Square Garden to watch one of heavyweight boxer Archie Moore's last fights. No sooner had Shor greeted Hemingway than the restaurateur brought over the Yankees slugger. When Mantle shook my hand, all I saw was a handsome young man. I was oblivious to his celebrity.

Years later, while Greg and I were married, he often took our sons to Central Park, where he taught them the finer points of baseball. I knew nothing of the Gigi Stars, but my children would often remind me that I had once met Mickey Mantle. In time, we became a Yankees family; in spring and summer, we took the number four subway north to Yankee Stadium to cheer them on. Not once, to me or to his sons, did Greg ever speak of the far-off days in Cuba when he had been a baseball star himself, had had a team named after him and had been his father's favorite son.

Valerie Hemingway, author of Running with the Bulls: My Years with the Hemingways, lives in Bozeman, Montana. Photographer Robert Wallis is based in London.

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