Some months ago, I was wandering through a riverside park in Bangor, Maine, when I paused to look at a beautiful bronze cannon handsomely mounted on a turn of the century stone monument.
A bronze plaque explained the cannon’s significance.
“Spanish Bronze Cannon. Cast at Seville, February 9th, 1782. Dismounted from Fort Toro, Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, in bombardment by U.S. Navy, June 15th, 1898. Recovered June 7th, 1898 by Lieut. Commander Frank K. Fletcher commanding the U.S.S. Eagle, and presented to the Honorable Charles A. Boutelle Chairman Committee of Naval Affairs U. S. House of Representatives by whom it was presented to the city of Bangor October 16, 1899, through Honorable Arthur Chapin, Mayor.”
It’s sad, even comical, to imagine a Navy cruiser during the Spanish-American War bombarding some ancient coastal fortifications, defended by bronze cannons that dated from before the Revolutionary War. It was another chapter in the long, sad history of the U.S.-Cuban relationship.
I doubt whether anyone in either Washington or Havana knows about this cannon, forlorn and forgotten, tucked away in a quiet Maine coastal city.
But as the Castro brothers finally exit the scene, and as U.S.-Cuban relations improve, it might present an ideal opportunity to make a broadly symbolic, reparative gesture. Once the prison at Guantanamo is closed, maybe the city of Bangor and the U.S. government could join together to return the cannon to Cuba, since it’s clearly an integral part of Cuba’s history.
And maybe, in turn, the U.S. government could find a nice replacement cannon for Bangor stored somewhere in its vast inventory of obsolete weapons (and don’t tell me that there is no such inventory – I saw the warehouse in the last Indiana Jones movie!).
So everyone’s a winner – and our contentious world becomes a slightly better place.
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