Havana from the “other” side of the harbour.
Old Spanish fort protecting Havana Harbour.
These are what had us scared in 1962.
Ousted President Batista’s answer to Rio’s Christ the Redeemer looks across to Havana.
Revolutions are the locomotives of history – Karl Marx.
For my generation the Cuban Revolution epitomised the Cold War. Burned into our memories is the 1962 Bay of Pigs invasion and the Cuban Missile Crisis. We waited with bated breath for President Kennedy to push that button but, phew! he backed off at the last minute. Only recently in some fascinating documentaries have we learned how close it all came to a nuclear conflagration and how gung-ho the American generals were about getting Kennedy to act. One presidential historian described President Kennedy’s success in fending off the generals as being his “most consequential victory”. It certainly would have put paid to Cuba’s survival and its current resurrection.
So it was with bemusement that we viewed, after crossing under Havana’s impressive ( except for the oil slicks) harbour by tunnel to visit the old Spanish fortifications built in the late 1500s, a collection of decidedly bedraggled and unthreatening-looking rusting missiles and old war planes. These, we were advised, were some of THE nukes. Hard to believe but I managed to find a reference in a 2012 American television news report from an equally surprised reporter.”Across the harbor from Havana, behind a bluff that once protected a USSR installation, we found what is left of one of the Russian nuclear rockets; an R-12 medium ballistic missile that still contains what appears to be some of the original wiring.” he reported.
Back across the harbour in the old city the essence of Cuba’s revolution, which propelled this tiny American neighbour into the centre of Cold War anti-Communist sentiment, is preserved at the Museo de la Revolucion, housed in the old Presidential Palace, home to a string of big-spending former presidents the last of whom was the deposed dictator Fulgenico Batista who was overthrown in the revolution. It’s a museum not only for the heroes but also for the language of the revolution. I’d almost forgotten wonderful phrases such as “imperialist aggressors” and “forces of capitalism”.
Still bearing the revolutionary bullet holes.
Revolutionary brothers-in-arms – “Che” Guevera, Fidel Castro and Camilo Cienfuegos.
SAU-100 tank used by Castro in 1961 Bay of Pigs battle; fund raising for the revolution.
Ernesto “Che” Guevera holds a special place in the hearts of Cubans to this day for his role not only in achieving the revolution but the charitable work his did in his role as a trained doctor. Monuments and remembrances to him are found across the country with the most significant at Santa Clara where a impressive memorial and statue commemorates his death and that of revolutionaries killed with him in the jungles of Bolivia by the CIA in 1967. Santa Clara is not far from the Bay of Pigs whose sparkling Caribbean waters are today being invaded by snorkelling tourists rather than Cuban exiles. A nearby cenote, or sinkhole, said to be 60 metres deep, is also popular with snorklers.
“Che” standing guard at his Santa Clara memorial.
A new type of invader at the Bay of Pigs.
For Cubans the locomotive is just developing a head of steam.