Hemingway and the Basques
Find out what connects Ernest Hemingway to our land and how his passion for it came about.
Kanala is one of the prettiest spots in the Urdaibai reserve, a very special place thanks to its extraordinary views of the Mundaka estuary and the protection of the impressive mountains. Kanala’s former parish priest, Andrés Untzain, was originally from the nearby fishing town of Mundaka. He spent several years of his life in this picturesque locality until, due to the Civil War, he emigrated to Cuba where he met Hemingway. In only a short time, the two struck up a sincere friendship and forged lasting ties, with Andres Untzain becoming Hemingway’s spiritual guide.
On Wednesdays, the Basque pelota players would meet with Untzain at Ernest’s house, known as Finca Vigía, to enjoy the pleasures of life and tell stories of what Hemingway himself would later call: “The Basque Country and his Basque friends. Rather more than just San Fermin and bulls!” In fact he spent his 40th birthday surrounded by the Ibarluzea brothers, Patxi and Julián, along with Félix Areitio, nicknamed Ermua. Trips to the Basque Country became a regular feature, during which he never thought twice about visiting his friends, lovers of the good things in life; however, shortly before his death in 1959, Ernest Hemingway also visited Urdaibai to take a closer look at the home of his Basque friends: Particularly the Kanala church of which Untzain had been the priest, birthplace of Juan Duñabeitia, alias Sinbad the Pirate and, of course, the tomb of his personal spiritual guide, Untzain, in Mundaka. The latter’s death was the final blow to the multi-talented North American writer and prompted his premature disappearance shortly afterwards.
On the map you’ll find information about the Hemingway route.