Cultural connections between Cuba and the United States persist in spite of the U.S. blockade. The two countries venerate each other’s music, art, and literature, and the life of Ernest Hemingway is remarkable as an example of shared cultural ties.

The renowned U.S. author lived in Cuba longer than anywhere else, and his widow Mary donated Finca Vigia, Hemingway’s Cuban home, to the people of Cuba. It is now a museum where manuscripts, 9,000 books, thousands of photographs, and letters are stored. The collection includes 21 years of correspondence between Hemingway and his literary agent Maxwell Perkins.

But rain and tropical humidity have taken their toll. According to a Nov. 9 Boston Globe article, “Finca Vigia has been called a preservation emergency by experts: It is in such bad shape that the next hurricane could blow it away.” Led by Rep. James McGovern (D-Mass.), U.S. foundations and benefactors have undertaken to preserve the memorabilia stored there. Supporters of a project to repair the house and protect its contents recently sought permission from the U.S. Treasury Department for architects and engineers to visit the island. They had planned to study practical aspects of the undertaking, together with their Cuban colleagues.

But the Bush administration turned them down. It claimed that a refurbished Hemingway museum might encourage tourism, something the administration wants to stamp out in hopes of further starving the Cuban economy.

An appeal of the decision is planned. In the meantime, the administration is content to let the winds blow, the termites burrow, and world-class cultural treasures rot away.

— W.T. Whitney Jr.