January 13, 2002

'The Old Man and the Sea' boat captain dead at 104

HAVANA, Cuba (AP) --Gregorio Fuentes, who was boat captain to Ernest
Hemingway when the late American writer lived in Cuba, died early Sunday at
age 104, his family said. Fuentes had suffered from cancer.

For nearly 30 years, Fuentes was captain, cook and friend to the American writer.
Many say he was the inspiration for the protagonist in Hemingway's classic "The
Old Man and the Sea."

"He died in the house he had always lived in," his grandson Rafael Fuentes, 48, told
The Associated Press. He was buried Sunday afternoon.

Fuentes had lived in Cojimar, a coastal city about 15 kilometers (10 miles) east of
Havana since arriving in Cuba as an orphan at age 6.

Born on July 11, 1897 in Lanzarote, in the Canary Islands, Fuentes was traveling to
Cuba when his father, the ship's cook, died on board. The young orphan was taken
in by other Canary Island immigrants in Cuba who cared for him until he reached

Hemingway and Fuentes met in 1928, and in the 1930s the writer hired the mariner
for $ 250.00 a month to care for his boat, El Pilar. Before returning to the United
States in 1960, Hemingway stopped by Fuentes' Cojimar home to say good-bye.

"Take care of yourself as you have known how," Fuentes once remembered
Hemingway as telling him. Fuentes later inherited El Pilar and donated it to the Cuban
government, which displays it outside Hemingway's former home, now a museum
on the outskirts of Havana.

Fuentes was married for 70 years to a distant cousin, Dolores Perez, who died in
1990. He is survived by two of the four daughters they had together, seven
grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren.

Copyright 2002 The Associated Press.