The picture below shows the town square of Remidios, Villa Clara, Cuba, one spectacularly peaceful morning in December 2009. The town is no busier or faster than it looks and it is hard to imagine it was ever much different.
It's also hard to grasp, though it is the truth, that I am standing very close to a source of cold war armageddon nightmares that lasted for years, and never really stopped influencing my thinking and my behavior.
In October 1962 I was 8 years old, living a classic 1950s childhood in a classic northern Quebec town. I can clearly remember the growing tension in the adult world and the increased activity from the jet interceptors based a few miles away. Something very bad was taking place, in an exotic dangerous country far away that had never before been part of my world , but sure was now...Cuba. It was really bad, because it was going to happen to us. It was going to be the worst thing that ever happened, and there was nothing to be done about it.
Then a lot of other things came to pass, and 47 years later I found myself in Remidios, site of a now-forgotten Soviet missile installation that was once my greatest terror.
As our tour bus drove through the countyside on the way to our next stop, I knew by some instinct we were near the site and I strained to detect any sign in the serenity of this tropcal farming landscape. The feeling became overwhelming and at one dirt road interesection I snapped this picture.
I felt sure this was the spot or very close.
And it was. Here is a link to some photos of the site as it appears today, along with a Google Earth entry.
There is nothing sinister to be seen here, hardly anything to distinguish it in the placid face of the slumbering Cuban landscape. Certainly, this is not the stuff of nightmares. Soon all traces will be gone.
I hope no further drama affects life in Remidios, Villa Clara, Cuba. I hope it is only known to a few busloads of Canadian tourists with cameras in hand, who come to sun themselves in the quiet square, or marvel at the golden wall in one of Cuba's most historic churches:
Or have cool beer in the shade of the central tavern:
It's a good time and place to celebrate glorious peace.
So If you ever see me lazing in the town square of Remidios, say "hola". I'll buy you cool one and we will talk about the weather.