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Academic journal article The Hemingway Review. An alluring, olive-skinned courtesan with an unusual aversion to harsh words and actions, "Honest Lil" is a leading character in Islands in the Stream. But scholarship has yet to examine Hemingway's actual friendship with "Leo" Rodriguez, who clearly inspired this depiction. Interviews with and publications by Leopoldina's niece Ilse Bulit and analysis of Cuban scholarship including interviews with Hemingway's Cuban friends such as Enrique Serpa and Fernando Campoamor, reveal that Leopoldina was not only Hemingway's longtime friend, confidant, and--in all likelihood--lover, but also an important influence on Islands in the Stream and The Old Man and the Sea.
Perhaps because of limited access to Cuban sources caused by strained U. Carlos Baker is the sole exception. Cuban and Russian biographers, on the other hand, have explored the topic in depth.
Interviews with Leopoldina's niece Ilse Bulit, translations of interviews from Spanish-language sources, and analysis of Cuban scholarship and original documents at the Finca Vigia Museum reveal that Leopoldina Rodriguez was not only Hemingway's longtime friend, confidante--and, in all likelihood, his lover--but also an important influence in his life and on Islands in the Stream and even The Old Man and the Sea. Hemingway's literary portrayal of "Lil," the olive-skinned mulatta in Islands in the Stream who had frequented the Floridita for over twenty-five years, strongly resembles his real-life relationship with "Leo," or Leopoldina Rodriguez--described in interviews with Hemingway's close Cuban friends, such as journalist Fernando G.
Leopoldina's niece, Ilse Bulit, who lived with her aunt in an apartment that Hemingway rented for them in the s and s, has also documented the relationship and its similarity to the one described in Islands in the Stream.
Both in her series of articles published in the Cuban press and my own recent interview with her, Bulit describes her memories of this relationship in vivid detail. In Islands in the Stream, Hemingway wrote that Lil would make "her stately progress to the far end of the bar, speaking to many of the men she passed and smiling at others.