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Monday, 14 January, 2002, 11:40 GMT
Hemingway's 'Old Man' dies in Cuba
The Old Man and the Sea brought to life on the IMAX screen
The Old Man and the Sea charts triumph over adversity
The Cuban fisherman who was the inspiration for Ernest Hemingway's novel, The Old Man and The Sea, has died at the age of 104.


Everything about him was old except his eyes and they were the same colour as the sea and were cheerful and undefeated

Hemingway's description of The Old Man

Gregorio Fuentes was the captain of Hemingway's boat Pilar during the years that Hemingway lived in Cuba, and he developed a strong friendship with the author.

It is thought that Hemingway modelled the central character of his Nobel prize-winning 1952 novel on Fuentes.

"Everything about him was old except his eyes and they were the same colour as the sea and were cheerful and undefeated," Hemingway wrote of the The Old Man.

Nautical bond

The classic novel tells the tale of an old Cuban fisherman's colossal struggle to catch the perfect fish.

The climax of the book is a gruelling three-day battle with a marlin that he has hooked.

Ernest Hemingway
Hemingway's love of the outdoors featured in much of his work

He eventually loses the fish to sharks, but the physical suffering he endures is portrayed as a spiritual triumph of integration with the world around him.

In reality, Fuentes was Hemingway's captain and cook for nearly 30 years, steering his ship and preparing his favourite cocktails.

He died in the house he had always lived in as he was preparing to go to church. He had been suffering from cancer.

The fisherman was born on Lanzarote in the Canary Islands in 1897. He was travelling to Cuba when his father, who was a ship's cook, died on board.

Fuentes, then only six years old, was taken in by other Canary island migrants.

He met Hemingway in 1928, and in 1930s the celebrated author hired Fuentes to look after his boat.

Fuentes recalled the moment when Hemingway finally returned to the United States in 1960, a year before he committed suicide.

"Take care of yourself as you have known how," he recalled the author as saying.

Tourist attraction

The fisherman later donated Pilar to the Cuban Government.

It is displayed outside Hemingway's former home on the outskirts of Havana.

In recent years, Fuentes had become something of a tourist attraction in the village of Cojimar, east of Havana, where he lived most of his long life.

"He was a symbol of Cuban fishing and of human brotherhood, thanks to all of his years of friendship with Hemingway," said his friend, Jose Miguel Diaz Escrich.

See also:

18 Oct 99 | Entertainment
Palin's Ernest endeavour
09 Aug 99 | Letter From America
Loneliness, male companionship and the hunt
23 Jun 99 | Entertainment
The 'largest' animation in the world
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