It is Ronda one must visit if travelling to Spain on your honeymoon or with a girlfriend. The entire city and its surroundings are a romantic setting. (…) Lovely promenades, fine wine, excellent food, nothing to do…
In May 1959, Ernest Hemingway arrived in Algeciras by ship on his fourth trip to Spain. Since 1939 he had only been to Spain for brief stopovers or to attend bullfights. He had promised not to set foot on Spanish soil for as long as some of his friends were in Francoist prisons. Having fought for the Spanish republican faction in the Lincoln Brigade and the XII Brigade, commanded by Hungarian general Lucasz, Hemingway became a war correspondent for the North American Newspaper Alliance, writing a total of thirty 800-word chronicles. The Spanish civil war had a tremendous impact on him, which, far from making him a tourist, turned him into a committed reporter, witness of the violence and complexity of the conflict.
Hemingway lived his life on a razor edge and at the age of 61, he had already lived plenty and drunk even more.
His stay in Spain ended in September, after a Goyesca Bullfight. He had come to be with his friend, Antonio Ordóñez, the son of “el Niño de la Palma”, and to fight the bulls from behind the covert. Had he been younger, he might have attempted a stunt against the bulls, like those amateur bullfighters rushing into the ring to briefly cape the bull before being pulled away by the Civil Guard.
But he was already a hefty, slightly-hunched, old man, with thick, bushy hair under his tweed hat, and a beard which covered his face and part of his guayabera. And so he appears in the picture taken by Miguel Martín, by the gate of Ronda’s Real Maestranza de Caballería (Royal School of Cavalry), between two Ordónez family members; father and son.
Miguel Martín managed to capture in his photographs a number of travellers and personalities who chose to visit Ronda at some point in their lives. In fact, it was also him who took the photo of Juan Belmonte judging a Goyesca livestock competition in 1957.
During that last summer in Ronda, Hemingway stayed in “La Cónsula”, a rural estate near Malaga owned at the time by American Bill Davis. His trip was to bear fruit in the form of a manuscript assigned by “Life” magazine, about the rivalry between Antonio Ordóñez and Luis Miguel Dominguín. The book, entitled “The Dangerous Summer”, ended up not being as successful as expected. During this stay, he was accompanied by his fourth wife, Mary Welsh, and his secretary, Valiere.
Valiere, who was a young Irish reporter, interviewed the Nobel laureate in Madrid while working for a Belgian news agency. She would later marry Hemingway’s third and youngest child; Gregory.
If you are keen on postcards, you can still find old picture postcards featuring Hemingway in some of the gift shops. He can also be seen on the tiles of the promenade named after him, which runs along the edge of the Tajo (the cliff) behind the Parador Hotel. This promenade leads to the whitewashed wall of the famous bullring. I would have truly enjoyed meeting him there, but I know it is impossible, as he decided to leave this world over 50 years ago.