Xenophobia and Leopoldina

I found an article in the Hemingway Review written by Andrew Feldman and published in the Fall 2011 edition of the journal entitled “Leopoldina Rodríguez: Hemingway’s Cuban Lover?”

EMH was friends with and used the services of prostitutes when he lived in Cuba. EMH had nicknames for people (besides for himself) and he was friends with two prostitutes. One of these women he nicknamed Xenophobia because she only liked Cubans. Her friend, called Leopoldina, was an older, more sophisticated woman who was a long-term friend and lover of EMH.

Feldman begins his article by reminding the readers that EMH’s biographers never really wrote about this aspect of EMH’s Cuban life most likely due to the US/Cuba situation at the time, besides the language difference. Therefore, the biographers did not interview many Cubans. Feldman also lets his readers know he talked to Leopoldina’s niece, Ilse Bulit, a journalist for Cuban radio.


–from the article

From the Hemingway Review:

Leopoldina could never attain happiness, but more than with any other, with Hemingway she had known friendship, a comforting, tender, and attentive, and often paternal relationship. She was the only woman allowed to enter the Floridita without an escort, and this small privilege she owed to her friendship with Hemingway. (Serpa quoted in Páporov 56)

Leopoldina’s niece, Cuban journalist Ilse Bulit, confirms the duration and depth of their relationship. Bulit reports that Hemingway visited her aunt regularly, gave Leo a regular allowance, and for more than a decade paid the rent of her apartment in the Astral building on Old Havana’s Calle Infanta (SEMlac Partes I, II). Born in 1941, Bulit remembers Hemingway’s constant presence during her childhood spent in her aunt’s apartment throughout the 1940s and 1950s:

Leopoldina, a fine-featured, dark-skinned young lady, became Hemingway’s lover for many years. The truth is that he never left her for another woman. Hemingway loved Leopoldina, held her very dear to his heart. He paid for her apartment on Calle Infanta and never abandoned her financially even during her long and painful cancer, which eventually took her life. (Bohemia 13).

Feldman asserts that Leopoldina was the model for the character of Lil in Islands in the Stream. I think he makes a good argument. You can read the article HERE.

  10 comments for “Xenophobia and Leopoldina

  1. hilarymb
    April 28, 2016 at 2:48 AM

    Hi Denise – an interesting period of EMH’s life … and one I knew nothing about … cheers Hilary

    • April 28, 2016 at 6:18 AM

      I forget so much I have read about the man that it becomes new again for me, Hilary. Cheers, D

  2. April 28, 2016 at 5:23 AM

    X is the toughest one, isn’t it, Denise?! You and I think alike – and we chose the same word today 😀

    • April 28, 2016 at 6:19 AM

      Very tough, Martha! I shall check out xenophobia on your site! Cheers, D

  3. April 28, 2016 at 11:54 AM

    Interesting aspect of his life, indeed. People find friendships everywhere, and as such find inspiration. Not surprised he used her as inspiration for a story. Great X choice, Denise.

  4. April 28, 2016 at 12:44 PM

    It was stretching it a bit on the “X,” but I enjoyed knowing more about this woman and EMH. Thanks, Silvia. Two more days. I have tomorrow’s ready and “Z” will be easy. Whew!

  5. April 28, 2016 at 3:23 PM

    I’m sadly ignorant of Ernest Hemingway, so thanks for the enlightenment through the A2Z 🙂
    Jemima Pett

    • April 28, 2016 at 3:59 PM

      Jemima, Thank you so much for reading about EMH. I have been reading about his life and visiting his houses and other locations for 8 years and I am still learning. Cheers, Denise

  6. May 5, 2016 at 9:23 PM

    Denise,,,,,,,,you were correct……..X was a wild one. Literary groupies; ahhhhhh……..I gotta quit my day job!!

    • May 5, 2016 at 10:31 PM

      I know, right? Literary groupiness can be fun!

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