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The Old Man and His Marlin in Cabo Blanco

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How did Cabo Blanco, a small fishing village in Northern Peru, become synonymous with Ernest Hemingway? Here’s a story that brings together literature, a man’s passion for the sea, and the mythical black marlin.

Cabo Blanco and Old Man in the Sea

(Photo: Deviant Art)

In 1956 Ernest Hemingway made a trip to Talara (near Piura), to seek out the mythical black marlin. It’s a journey that he made after publishing his famous book The Old Man and the Sea. With his arrival to the region, people across Peru excitedly welcomed him. It wasn’t every day that a man of his caliber flew in: a Nobel and Pulitzer Prize-winning writer who was known by millions. And on top of that, he came with a film crew to shoot a film that was to be based on his book. Many people described him as a straightforward man, but he also claimed special membership to the exclusive Cabo Blanco Fishing Club. This exclusive fishing club was founded in 1951 by Kip Farrington and Tom Bates, it had just twenty members and the annual subscription was ten thousand dollars. It also hosted John Wayne, Bob Hope, Paul Newman, Spencer Tracy, Marilyn Monroe, James Stewart, Gregory Peck and Cantinflas, and was where Alfred Glasell Jr., an American millionaire, caught a black marlin weighing more than 700 kilos (1,543 pounds) and measuring 4 meters long (13 feet), the world record.

Journalists and major papers were ready to document the trip

Omar Zevallos, in his biographical work o Hemingway in Peru, described how agencies from the United States sent a cable to Lima’s three most important daily papers, El Comercio, La Prensa and La Cronica, announcing that the writer would fly to Peru to direct the filming of The Old Man and the Sea. Hemingway had heard from Kip Farrington, an expert fisherman, that “there’s a sport fishing paradise where the fabulous black marlin reigns supreme (identical to the one described in his famous novel), in a hidden cove in a South American country called Peru. Hemingway had been to Mexico on one of his many trips around the world, but had never set foot in South America”.

The Cabo Blanco Fishing Club

 

(Photo: Wikimedia)

It took just 36 days for the three Peruvian journalists who covered the event (Manuel Jesus Orbegozo, Jorge Donayre Belaunde, and Mario Saavedra Pinon Castillo) to collect enough material to write multitudes of articles about Hemingway’s visit. Somebody even wrote a book about it.  During his time in Cabo Blanco, Hemmingway fished aboard his boat, Miss Texas. He ended up catching four marlin, one weighing more than 300 kilos (660 pounds). Legend has it that the one weighing 900 kilos (1,984 pounds) got away.

Hemmingway left a mark on the coast

(Photo: Flickr)

Hemingway came to Peru after a life full of adventure, including war, accidents, liters of alcohol, and permanent debts. It was a simple, agreeable visit in which he communicated in good Spanish. People say that he was passionate, and at times euphoric, with a fear of any kind of social event. He spoke to journalists and made a couple of friends with whom he never lost contact, but above all, he put the hitherto anonymous Cabo Blanco on the map. And this echo can still be heard today.

 

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Credit: Ultimate Journeys Peru

Cover photo: Ultimate Journeys Peru

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Diego Oliver is a Peruvian writer and author whose work can be found in the travel magazine Ultimate Journeys. He loves to focus on Peruvian culture both modern and classic, traveling the country, as well as social responsibility.