Headquarters of the Nobel Foundation in Sweden. Photo: Archive.
As we explained in the previous work, this week we will address the issue of Cubans nominated for the Nobel Prize since its celebration in 1901.
To date, Cuba does not have a Nobel Prize winner in any of its six categories. However, from very early dates, Cuban names would be among the nominees.
The Selection Process
The nomination and award process is not an easy task for the Nobel Foundation. The award ceremony every December 10 is the final process of more than a year of rigorous work, in which more than 300 nominations are received for each category.
The process begins when the Norwegian parliament elects the Norwegian Nobel Committee, made up of five prestigious intellectuals. This committee is in charge of selecting the personalities worldwide with the faculty to nominate in each of the categories, which includes university professors, scientists and past winners of the award.
In September of the year prior to the awards ceremony, the committee issues invitations to the selected nominators to submit their proposals, and they are prohibited from self-nominating. Proposals must be submitted before the end of the year.
At the beginning of the year of awarding the prizes, the Norwegian Nobel Committee forms six specific committees in each of the categories, made up of scientists and experts of wide prestige and reputation in the different areas to be awarded. Thus begins the rigorous, difficult and sometimes controversial process of studying and purging the nominees, which lasts several months.
Finally, the winners are announced at the beginning of October and are presented on December 10. Although the awards are held on the same day, not all awards are given in the same place.
Nelson Mandela during the presentation of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993. Photo: Archive.
While the Nobel Peace Prize is awarded in Oslo, the remaining prizes are awarded in Stockholm hours later, thus fulfilling the stipulations of their creator in the will.
One of the most enigmatic facts of the process is the extreme confidentiality that must be maintained by all those involved. In order for this to be achieved, the members of the Norwegian Nobel Committee, the nominators, the members of the six selection committees and those of the institutions responsible for awarding them have to swear an absolute commitment to confidentiality, undertaking not to disclose information about the nominees, the nature of the discussions during the process or the winners. before it becomes official.
The most surprising thing is that in compliance with Alfred Nobel's wishes, the nominees and the documents resulting from the deliberations are not released until 50 years later. They are stored in a vault in the Foundation itself.
Cuba and the Nobel Prize Winners
Several Nobel Prize winners have had close ties with our country. Either because they have decided to reside in Cuba, have contributed to the nation or have been inspired by it.
Ernest Hemingway won the Pulitzer Prize in 1953 for his novel The Old Man and the Sea and the following year he would win the Nobel Prize for Literature, in which his most famous work undoubtedly had a decisive weight for the Swedish academy. It was written and is set in the 40s of our country.
Two years later, in 1956, Juan Ramón Jiménez won the Prize in Literature, who lived in our country for some years.
A similar situation would be held by the Colombian writer Gabriel García Márquez, who would win the prize in 1982. Gabo worked and lived for many years in our country. A man close to our people and history, he is one of the creators of the Foundation of New Latin American Cinema in 1985.
Cubans and the Nobel Prize
As you might expect, rumours and speculation abound around one of the most prestigious awards in the world. That is why we will refer to the official information, which we can only have up to 1973.
According to the Nobel Foundation's website, since its first issue in 1901, until 1973, Cubans have been nominated on 28 occasions and in three of its categories (Medicine, Literature and Peace) and this honor has only corresponded to six nationals.
It is a source of immense pride for Cubans that Carlos Juan Finlay y Barrés, one of the most eminent scientists in our country, has been nominated ten times, in several years by two people and for six different years. The discovery of the transmitting agent of yellow fever and its work in the prevention and eradication of this scourge in the Caribbean made it worthy of being taken into account by the Swedish academy. Unfortunately, he was not a winner on any of the occasions.
It is interesting to note that he was nominated by prestigious professionals from various nations of the world, including two previous winners, the Scottish Ronald Ross, Nobel Prize in Medicine in 1902 and the Frenchman Alphonse C. Laveran in 1907.
Carlos Juan Finlay, the first Cuban to be nominated for the Nobel Prize.
In 1912 the second Cuban nominee would appear, this time it would be the also Camagüey Aristides Agramonte Simoni. Born in 1868, he comes from a family of patriots with a prominent participation in the wars for independence. Aristides is a relative of Major General Ignacio Agramonte and son of Brigadier General Eduardo Agramonte Piña, both killed in combat during the Ten Years' War. He is also the nephew on his mother's side of Amalia Simoni Argilagos, El Mayor's legendary partner.
In the late 1898th century he conspired against Spanish colonialism and finally joined the Spanish-Cuban-American War in <> as a medic attaché in the U.S. Army.
In 1900 he graduated from the University of Havana as a Doctor of Medicine and Surgery. That same year, he became a pathologist on the U.S. Army's Fourth Committee of Health Officers, which finally turned his attention to Finlay's research on yellow fever. His collaboration with the Cuban scholar, despite the commission's attempts to rob Finlay of his merit, led him to be nominated for the Nobel Prize in Medicine on five occasions between 1912 and 1917, four of them together with Finlay.
It would take 30 years for Cuba to have the first and only woman so far nominated for a Nobel Prize and the first to opt for the Nobel Prize in Literature. She is the translator and literary researcher Laura Mestre Hevia, who was born in Havana in 1867 into a family of intellectuals.
Mestre can be considered an outlier among the nominees for the Nobel Prize in Literature, as he did not stand out for writing fiction. She was a consecrated Hellenist who translated Homer's poems The Iliad and the Odyssey from Greek into Spanish, and the first woman to do so with both poems. She also excelled in translating other classics of antiquity and was a great polyglot who mastered Latin, French, Greek, English, and Italian.
She openly defended the independence and fulfilment of women through the cultivation of letters, sciences or art, so that with her work she contributed to the prestige of her native land. Unfortunately, most of his texts, including his translation of both Homeric poems, are unpublished in the archives of the Institute of Literature and Linguistics.
In 1934 we would have the first nominee in the Peace category. They are Moisés Almeida-Vieites y Rondón. Born in Havana in 1881, he practiced law and wrote numerous treatises on law. He was a member of the Bar Association of the capital and was a professor of Law at the University of Havana. He was also president of the Cuban group of the international association of criminal law, from where he advocated for peace.
His nominator was Pedro Cúe y Abreu, who argued in the documentation that Moses "had formulated a plan that would put an end to the war if it were carried out." The few bibliographical sources do not allow us to pinpoint exactly what specific conflict he was referring to. Due to the date and his links with Spain, it is suggested that he was involved in the Spanish Civil War.
No Cuban has achieved more nominations in the same year than Antonio Sánchez de Bustamante y Sirvén, a prestigious jurist born in Havana in 1865. An outstanding pedagogue at the University of Havana, he was a specialist in Private International Law, which led him to serve as a member of the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague in 1908 and one of the founding judges of the Permanent Court of International Justice in 1921.
Famous is the Code that bears his name, which sought to establish a common standard for the entire continent. Although it was accepted by several countries, it was signed on February 28, 1928 in Havana, during the celebration of the VI Pan-American Congress.
The Second World War surprised Cubans in the exercise of their functions as a judge of the Permanent Court of International Justice, from where they would fight and advocate for an end to the conflict. That struggle led him to be among the nominees for the Nobel Peace Prize in 1948 and the following year he would be proposed by four prestigious personalities. Unfortunately, in neither of the two years did he manage to win the award.
According to the Swedish Foundation's documentation, the Cuban intended to "use international law as a means to achieve mutual understanding and establish a system of customary law that could be used to resolve international disputes."
The island would have to wait more than 15 years to have another nominee, this time it would not be one born in Cuba, but a cultural son of it. We are referring to Alejo Carpentier y Valmont, who was born in Switzerland in 1904 and arrived in Cuba when he was a few years old.
Novels such as The Kingdom of This World, The Lost Steps, The Age of Enlightenment or The Rite of Spring made him one of the most important writers of Hispanic literature of the second half of the twentieth century and one of the Cuban novelists who has had the greatest impact on the world.
His first nomination came in 1965, which was repeated on at least three more occasions, always proposed by prestigious American and European professors or writers. Like the others, he would not be able to take home the prestigious award.
Undoubtedly, although none of them were able to win the Nobel Prize, each of these Cubans enhances the historical and cultural memory of our nation.