SUN VALLEY, Idaho. The Ketchum Korral is not picturesque. It’s a group of cheap month-to-month, brown cabins clustered on the outskirts of Sun Valley. Located on Highway 75, uninformed motorists drive past it every day.
The Korall now houses the Anglos, Mexicans and Peruvians when they first arrive in Idaho searching for work. Over 80 percent of its current tenants are of Spanish descent.
Ernest Hemingway lived in these same cabins in 1946, with his wife Mary, as she recuperated from a near fatal tubal pregnancy. It was called the “MacDonald Cabins” back then and Hemingway wrote “Islands in the Stream” in cabin 38.
While the Korral’s most famous occupant symbolizes Sun Valley’s past, its current residents, represent the new Sun Valley, dependent on foreign labor.
“We all know Hemingway because we live where Hemingway lived when we first moved to Sun Valley,” Cirillo Gonzales, 49, said.
Today, no sign mentions Hemingway and nothing distinguishes cabin 38 from the other cabins. It hides among the tall dark pines.
Hugo Vargas, 56, now lives in cabin 38, the same cabin as Hemingway.
Fifteen years ago, Vargas left his job as a taxi driver in Peru to come work at an elegant Ketchum restaurant. At the time, he left behind his wife, children and grandchildren to earn more money.
Initially, he was here illegally. For a decade, he wouldn’t drive a car for fear of being stopped by the Blaine County’s Sheriff s office and deported back to Peru. Vargas is now a permanent resident and hopes to become a citizen.
Now, cabin 38 is cluttered with tired, faded furniture, computer equipment and car parts. The cabin has never been renovated.
The single small window offers Vargas a view of Bald Mountain, the same view Hemingway enjoyed.
Vargas is proud that he lives in the same cabin where Hemingway once lived.
“It has a spiritual peace, this place, this cabin,” Vargas said as he stands tall and expands his chest.
Hemingway would probably approve of cabin 38’s new tenant because he had an enduring love affair with the Spanish people.
Mary Tyson is the regional history librarian for the Community Library in Sun Valley and curator of its extensive Hemingway collection of books and memorabilia.
“Hemingway’s captivation and affection for the Spanish people is reflected throughout his life and work,” Tyson said.
“For Whom the Bell Tolls” is about a group of antifascist guerrillas who are charged with blowing up a bridge in Spain. Hemingway’s experience of the festivals and fascination with the bullfights in Pamplona informs his writing of “The Sun Also Rises.”
Neither Gonzales nor Vargas has read any of Hemingway’s books; but both feel a kinship with the artist.
“He loved the torero (bullfighter) and drink,” Vargas said.
In addition to living at the Korral, Spanish locals have cultivated a special connection to Hemingway in their Idaho day-to-day life.
“My first American picnic was at the Hemingway Memorial,” Gonzales said.
Located northeast of the Sun Valley Lodge, Sun Valley’s workforce flocks to the shrine dedicated to the author. They surround his bronze bust and celebrate birthdays, anniversaries and weddings.
“My son was married at the memorial and he’s still married,” Vargas said.
Hemingway died in 1961 from a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head. He is buried along side his wife, Mary, in Ketchum Cemetery.
Gonzales and Vargas have visited Hemingway’s grave.
At the cemetery Vargas and Gonzales shared Hemingway’s favorite cocktail: “Death in the Afternoon,” a mix of absinthe and champagne that Hemingway named after his 1932 treatise on bullfighting.
In accordance with local custom, the pair left Hemingway a bottle of tequila.
“I think Hemingway, he was a regular guy, the kind of guy you could have a drink with,” Gonzales said.