Children of the Cuban missile crisis, we bear within ourselves certain visceral memories unimaginable to students today. Sitting in our classrooms, watching the clocks tick off the implacable hours, we awaited a word from our President and cast sideways glances at one another as we began to wonder – Have we celebrated our last birthdays?
In 1962, I knew less of Havana than I did of death. Most of what I knew had come from television and film – especially Desi Arnaz and his Babalú- or from adult gossip about cigars, rum and fishing the jewel-like waters that separate Cuba from the Florida Keys.
Even as an adult visiting Key West, my exposure to that “other world” just ninety miles away was limited to enjoyment of Cuban coffee and pastelitos, the lilt of the music and the entirely kitschy “buoy” that claims to mark the southernmost point of the U.S. It’s not a buoy, of course, and several locations are farther south. While the claim of “90 Miles to Cuba” is correct, you still can’t get there from here as an ordinary citizen, and it’s extraordinarily difficult to get here from there. (more…)