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Hemingway and mojitos: legendary Havana bar turns 70

posted 26 Apr 2012, 08:57 by Mpelembe   [ updated 26 Apr 2012, 08:58 ]

Havana's legendary Bodeguita del Medio, where Hemingway once enjoyed mojitos, turns 70.

HAVANA, CUBA (APRIL 25, 2012) (REUTERS) - Havana's legendary Bodeguita del Medio, where writer Ernest Hemingway once sipped mojitos, celebrated its 70th anniversary on Wednesday (April 25).

Since 1942, tourists have been strolling up this historic cobblestone street in Old Havana to go to the bar to hear local music, eat plates of rice, beans and fried plantains, and knock back mojitos, Hemingway's choice to quench his prodigious thirst while in Cuba.

"I came here because I saw on Yahoo, on the Internet, that this was the 70th anniversary - where Hemingway came and this place-- I love it. It's fabulous," said one U.S. tourist from California.

Legend says Hemingway only visited the bar once, but his presence helped put the bar on the map, turning it into a haunt for the famous and magnet for tourists.

Waiter Severino Duran has seen a lot of people come and go over the years.

"Seventy years is a long time. Sorry about the redundancy, but that's why it's such a big deal for us. He (referring to one of his colleagues) and I started here when we were very young, and we're proud to have been here so long, working and helping," Duran said.

Writing, signatures and photos on the walls are a testament to the string of illustrious visitors over the years, including former Chilean President Salvador Allende, poet Pablo Neruda, singer Nat King Cole and other entertainers like Errol Flynn and Brigitte Bardot.

It is thought that Cuban poet Nicolas Guillen was the first to write on the walls here.

But Hemingway and the famous drinks are still the big draw.

"We are here because Hemingway was here, and besides they have really good mojitos," said on Polish tourist.

La Bodeguita del Medio - "The Bar of the Middle" - got its name because it was in the middle of the block instead of on the corner as Cuban tradition dictates. It has grown into a chain, with bars in six countries.