The novel “Old Man and the Sea” was written by Ernest Hemingway in 1951. It is considered as one of Hemingway’s famous works and his last work of fiction during his lifetime. The story centers on the epic battle between an aging Cuban fisherman named Santiago and the largest catch of his life – a giant marlin, that he caught in Gulf Stream.
Hemingway wrote the novel in 1951 when he was in Cuba. The inspiration for the character of Santiago was believed to be a Cuban national named Gregorio Fuentes who worked as a nautical captain. Fuentes was the captain of the ship Pilar, which he sailed together with Hemingway throughout Cuba.
Born on July 11, 1897, Fuentes was also a fisherman. He worked as the first mate of Pilar which was owned by Hemingway. He was born in the Canary Islands and moved to Cuba at the age of 10. It was Jane Mason, Hemingway’s mistress, who hired him after Mason became envious of Hemingway’s relationship with another woman named Martha Gelhorn.
However, some people believed that the real inspiration for the character of Santiago was Carlos Gutierrez, the original first mate of Pilar whom Fuentes replaced. According to some experts, Gutierrez has 40 years of fishing experience in the Gulf Stream and was a very old man when Hemingway met him for the first time. The Hemingway himself credited Gutierrez as his mentor where he learned everything about how to catch a marlin. However, the author himself stated that the character of Santiago was “based on no one in particular.”