Hemingway's Havana home to get $900,000 in US improvements

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Hemingway's Havana home to get $900,000 in US improvements
A tourist walks around an empty pool at the home that once belonged to author Ernest Hemingway, known as Finca Vigia, in Havana, Cuba, Monday, June 22, 2015. The Boston-based Finca Vigia Foundation’s proposal to send four shipping containers with materials ranging from nuts and bolts to tools and roofing, in order to preserve the property, was approved by the U.S. government in May, after President Barack Obama created a series of exemptions to the embargo. (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa)
FILE - This July 2, 2008 file photo shows the former home of late American writer Ernest Hemingway (1899-1961), now a museum in Finca Vigia, Cuba. Havana’s best attractions include the Hemingway's estate, the waterfront promenade known as the Malecon, Old Havana, the Museo de la Revolucion, where “Cretins’ Corner” mocks Ronald Reagan and the Bush presidencies, and the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes. (AP Photo/Javier Galeano, File)
In this May 18, 2015 photo, visitors tour the Ambos Mundos Hotel where writer Ernest Hemingway stayed, in Old Havana, Cuba. The hotel is one of a number of attractions in the Havana neighborhood. (AP Photo/Beth J. Harpaz)
In this May 15, 2015 photo, two American tourists peer in through a windows of Ernest Hemingway’s Havana home, Finca Vigia. The visitors, who would only give their names as Sabine and Anna, traveled to Cuba through a third country because it was too complicated to meet U.S. requirements for legal travel to Cuba, which bans trips that are purely for tourism. (AP Photo/Beth J. Harpaz)
ADDS HOW PHOTO WAS TAKEN THROUGH A PANE GLASS WINDOW - In this photo shot through a pane glass window, U.S. Congressman Jim McGovern listen's to a guided tour of Ernest Hemingway's former home near Havana, Cuba, Monday, March 17, 2014. Island curators gave the Massachusetts Democrat and a visiting U.S. delegation a rare guided tour inside the modest but graceful Finca Vigia, a hilltop estate that is surrounded by lush tropical fruit trees and boasts panoramic views of the Havana skyline. Scholars from both countries have been working together for more than a decade to preserve the home and its treasure trove of documents, everything from bar bills and bullfighting tickets to personal notes and recipes. (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa)
The monument to US Nobel Prize Ernest Hemingway in the Cojimar neighborhood in Havana, on September 8, 2014. AFP PHOTO/Adalberto ROQUE (Photo credit should read ADALBERTO ROQUE/AFP/Getty Images)
U.S. Congressman Jim McGovern, right, takes a tour inside Ernest Hemingway's former home near Havana, Cuba, Monday, March 17, 2014. Island curators gave the Massachusetts Democrat and a visiting U.S. delegation a rare guided tour inside the modest but graceful Finca Vigia, a hilltop estate that is surrounded by lush tropical fruit trees and boasts panoramic views of the Havana skyline. Scholars from both countries have been working together for more than a decade to preserve the home and its treasure trove of documents, everything from bar bills and bullfighting tickets to personal notes and recipes. (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa)
New Mexico's Gov. Bill Richardson tours the former home of late U.S. writer Ernest Hemingway (1899-1961) in San Francisco de Paula, east Havana, Wednesday, Aug. 26, 2009. (AP Photo/Javier Galeano)
New Mexico's Gov. Bill Richardson imitates a photograph of late U.S. writer Ernest Hemingway (1899-1961) during a visit to his former home in San Francisco de Paula, east of Havana, Wednesday, Aug. 26, 2009. Richardson donated a replica of a vintage telephone to curators of the home, now a museum, on behalf of the state of New Mexico. (AP Photo/Javier Galeano)
New Mexico's Gov. Bill Richardson tours the former home of l writer Ernest Hemingway (1899-1961) in San Francisco de Paula, east of Havana, Wednesday, Aug. 26, 2009. Richardson is spending the week in Cuba on a trade mission, promoting agricultural products and cultural exchange. (AP Photo/Javier Galeano)
New Mexico's Gov. Bill Richardson gestures during a visit to the former home of U.S. writer Ernest Hemingway (1899-1961) in San Francisco de Paula, east of Havana, Wednesday, Aug. 26, 2009. (AP Photo/Javier Galeano)
A mural of author Ernest Hemingway and Fidel Castro shaking hands covers a downtown parking lot in Havana, Cuba, Monday, June 22, 2015. Cuban architects, engineers and workmen will construct a two-story laboratory where thousands of photos, books and letters to and from Hemingway can be treated and preserved. (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa)
Tourists walk around the home that once belonged to author Ernest Hemingway, known as Finca Vigia, in Havana, Cuba, Monday, June 22, 2015. A U.S. foundation will ship nearly $1 million in supplies to build a state-of-the-art facility to preserve Ernest Hemingway’s books, letters and photos _ the first major export of construction materials to Cuba since President Barack Obama loosened the trade embargo on the island. (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa)
HAVANA � JANUARY 6: Liquor bottles in the living-room of Ernest Hemingway�s house at the Finca Vigia, on January 6, 2007 in Havana, Cuba. The Hemingway Finca Vigia, now turned into a museum, has been restored with joint efforts of American and Cuban scientists and historians. Between 1939 and 1960, the American writer and journalist lived for many years in Cuba. It was here where he wrote his novel The Old Man and the Sea, which earned him both the Pulitzer Prize and the Nobel Prize in Literature. (Photo by Sven Creutzmann/Mambo photo/Getty Images)
This May 16, 2015 photo shows the exterior of El Floridita, a bar and restaurant frequented by Ernest Hemingway that's a popular stop for tourists in Old Havana, Cuba. The local great air-conditioning, icy daiquiris and a bust of Hemingway, perfect for selfies. (AP Photo/Beth J. Harpaz)
FILE - In this March 22, 2015 file photo, tourists pose for a photo while sipping on a cocktail at the Bodeguita del Medio Bar, frequented by the late American novelist Ernest Hemingway, in Old Havana, Cuba. For a drinking tour, consider Hemingway’s advice: "My mojito in La Bodeguita, my daiquiri in El Floridita.” The handwritten quote, allegedly scribbled by Hemingway himself, is framed at La Bodeguita del Medio over a bar mobbed with tourists. (AP Photo/Desmond Boylan, File)
In this May 24, 2015 photo, a message believed to have been written by late U.S. novelist Ernest Hemingway, hangs framed at the bar inside La Bodeguita del Medio in Old Havana, Cuba. The writing reads: "My mojito in La Bodeguita, my daiquiri in El Floridita." (AP Photo/Desmond Boylan)
HAVANA � JANUARY 6: Magazines in the living-room of Ernest Hemingway�s house at the Finca Vigia, on January 6, 2007 in Havana, Cuba. The Hemingway Finca Vigia, now turned into a museum, has been restored with joint efforts of American and Cuban scientists and historians. Between 1939 and 1960, the American writer and journalist lived for many years in Cuba. It was here where he wrote his novel The Old Man and the Sea, which earned him both the Pulitzer Prize and the Nobel Prize in Literature. (Photo by Sven Creutzmann/Mambo photo/Getty Images)
** FILE ** Several dancers perform in front of the old home of famed American novelist Ernest Hemingway, in this, May 25, 2005,file photo in Havana, Cuba. Work to restore Ernest Hemingway's Cuban hideaway probably won't be finished until the end of 2009, held up in part by efforts to build a garage to house the author's long-lost Chevy convertible, museum officials said Tuesday, March 20, 2007. (AP Photo/Jorge Rey)
Workers stand in the former home of late American writer Ernest Hemingway (1899-1961) which is a museum in Finca Vigia, Cuba, Wednesday, July 2, 2008, on the 47th anniversary of Hemingway's death. (AP Photo/Javier Galeano)
HAVANA � JANUARY 6: Handwritten notices on the bathroom wall marking the daily weigh of Ernest Hemingway, in his house at the Finca Vigia, on January 6, 2007 in Havana, Cuba. The Hemingway Finca Vigia, now turned into a museum, has been restored with joint efforts of American and Cuban scientists and historians. Between 1939 and 1960, the American writer and journalist lived for many years in Cuba. It was here where he wrote his novel The Old Man and the Sea, which earned him both the Pulitzer Prize and the Nobel Prize in Literature. (Photo by Sven Creutzmann/Mambo photo/Getty Images)
An worker stands in the library of the former home of late American writer Ernest Hemingway (1899-1961) which is a museum in Finca Vigia, Cuba, Wednesday, July 2, 2008, on the 47th anniversary of Hemingway's death. (AP Photo/Javier Galeano)
A soldier takes notes on a window sill outside the former home of late American writer Ernest Hemingway (1899-1961) which is a museum in Finca Vigia, Cuba, Wednesday, July 2, 2008, on the 47th anniversary of Hemingway's death. (AP Photo/Javier Galeano)
Workers sit in the former home of late American writer Ernest Hemingway (1899-1961) which is a museum in Finca Vigia, Cuba, Wednesday, July 2, 2008, on the 47th anniversary of Hemingway's death. (AP Photo/Javier Galeano)
A worker polishes the Pilar, a 40-foot fishing boat that belonged to late American writer Ernest Hemingway (1899-1961) at his former home that is now a museum in Finca Vigia, Cuba, Wednesday, July 2, 2008, on the 47th anniversary of Hemingway's death. (AP Photo/Javier Galeano)
A worker sleeps next to a window in the former home of late American writer Ernest Hemingway (1899-1961) which is a museum in Finca Vigia, Cuba, Wednesday, July 2, 2008, on the 47th anniversary of Hemingway's death. (AP Photo/Javier Galeano)
A label on a trunk on display in the master bedroom of the house formerly owned by Ernest Hemingway in Ketchum, Idaho, July 30, 2007 shows Hemingway's name and the destination of Havana, Cuba. The home is now owned by the Nature Conservancy as part of a private preserve. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
Well-known Bodega in Havana, Cuba, where Ernest Hemingway spent many evenings. Undated picture. (AP Photo)
Mary Hemingway, after 16 years, revisits the Havana home of Ernest Hemingway which is now the Hemingway Museum in Key West, Florida on July 10, 1977. (AP Photo/Tasnadi)
Mary Hemingway, widow of author Ernest Hemingway, tours the house they lived in during their stay in Cuba on July 14, 1977. Mrs. Hemingway is in Cuba to aid in the production of a movie about her late husband’s life. (AP Photo/Charles Tasnadi)
This May 17, 2015 photo shows the El Floridita bar decorated with a statue of writer Ernest Hemingway, also pictured on the wall in a photo with Fidel Castro, in Old Havana, Cuba. For a drinking tour, consider Ernest Hemingway’s advice: "My mojito in La Bodeguita, my daiquiri in El Floridita.” (AP Photo/Beth J. Harpaz)
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HAVANA (AP) — A U.S. foundation will ship nearly $900,000 in supplies to build a state-of-the-art facility to preserve Ernest Hemingway's books, letters and photos — the first major export of construction materials to Cuba since President Barack Obama loosened the trade embargo on the island.

The Boston-based Finca Vigia Foundation has been trying for years to help Cuba stop thousands of pages of documents from slowly disintegrating in the baking heat and dripping humidity of the sprawling home where the American writer lived and worked outside Havana from 1939 to 1960. Officials with Cuba's National Cultural Heritage Council, which runs the Finca Vigia, have been enthusiastic about building a conservation laboratory but said they didn't have the funds or supplies to do it.

High-quality building materials are virtually impossible to find throughout much of Cuba, with homeowners forced to buy paint and water pumps stolen from government agencies and pay overseas travelers to bring items as large as sinks and kitchen cabinets in their checked luggage. In state-run hardware stores, a request for an item as mundane as a box of screws can provoke peals of laughter from sales clerks.

The foundation's proposal to send four shipping containers with as much as $862,000 of materials ranging from nuts and bolts to tools and roofing was approved by the U.S. government in May, after Obama created a series of exemptions to the embargo. The exceptions include permission for Americans to export supplies donated for the purpose of supporting the Cuban people in fields such as science, archaeology and historical preservation.

Cuban architects, engineers and workmen will use the American supplies and Cuban cement blocks and mortar to construct a 2,400-square-foot, two-story laboratory where thousands of photos, roughly 9,000 books and a huge number of letters to and from Hemingway can be treated and preserved.

"It will make a tremendous difference," Mary-Jo Adams, executive director of the privately funded Finca Vigia Foundation, which was founded in 2003. "They'll be able to be kept for decades, if not longer."

TV home improvement expert Bob Vila, a Finca Vigia Foundation board member who is Cuban-American and speaks fluent Spanish, will help oversee the project, Adams said. The head of Cuba's National Cultural Heritage Council told The Associated Press that she couldn't make any immediate comment on the project.

The series of exemptions that Obama carved in the embargo a month after his Dec. 17 announcement of detente with Cuba is designed explicitly to help ordinary Cuban citizens and the island's growing private sector rather than its socialist, single-party government.

But the Cuban government retains control of most aspects of life on the island. Obama administration officials acknowledged from the start that it would be impossible to prevent warming ties from helping a state apparatus that the U.S. criticizes for a lack of political and economic freedom. American tourism to the island is still prohibited by U.S. law and critics of Obama's engagement with Cuba say that it will simply funnel cash to Raul Castro's government.

The Finca Vigia is one of Havana's most popular tourist attractions and its entrance fees go to the government, but Adams said the preservation lab wouldn't be a part of that.

"It is not going to attract visitors but it will keep the collection safe," she said.

She said that questions about the ethics of a project that works with the Cuban government had long since dissipated.

"It was sensitive probably 10 years ago. It no longer is," she said.

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Follow Michael Weissenstein on Twitter: https://twitter.com/mweissenstein

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