At the end of last week's Andalusian triangle trip (Arcos de la Frontera, Jerez, and Cadiz), I spent a half day from my vacation at the US Naval Station (within the Spanish Navy base) of Rota, across the bay from Cadiz. I came equipped with Legation posters, which I hope are now beckoning Rota R&R travelers to come our way.
The Navy leadership on base was very welcoming, and Captain Greg Pekari and XO Tim McGarvey invited me to speak to their assembled department heads on the Tangier American Legation and its museum.
Prior to my visit, during the initial arrangements for base access ("no, I don't have a CD car or diplomatic passport anymore," and while a legation used to be headed by a minister, well, now it's just a director… of a nonprofit institution), I realized that some explanations were in order when I spread the word about TALIM. A common question – "What's a legation?" – resulted in a pretty concise soundbite from me: "an old word for embassy."
There was also an interview with The Coastline, the base newspaper (article forthcoming), and an impromptu live on-air interview on Armed Forces Network (AFN) Radio, with budding historian and host MC2 James Cellini (studio photo, above). The interview is in the two podcast links below; for inexplicable technical reasons, Part 2 is crystal clear, whereas Part 1 sounds like ship-to-shore radio of the 1950s. Oh well, we're a bit retro at the Legation…
Be sure to turn on your computer's sound button.
Thanks especially to Mr. Roberto Fuertes (photo, right), the perfectly bilingual English/Spanish speaking Protocol Officer at Rota, a retired US Navy man now a civilian. Rob has hosted a long list of visitors much more VIP than me, showing up as I did in the best wardrobe that I could muster from my suitcase selection of clean jeans.
In a perfect use of his time and mine, the "windshield tour" (I had almost forgotten this favorite expression among the military) combined briefing, amazing vistas across the sprawling base, and a chance for Rob to conduct business in what is very clearly a busy and wide-ranging portfolio.
Rota, located as it is on the bay of Cadiz, commands a strategic position on the Atlantic approaches to the Strait of Gibraltar. Moroccan commandos have taken advantage of the training opportunities offered by FAST Marines at Rota, and now we're trying to show that Rota personnel might enjoy traveling in the opposite direction and discover America's only National Historic Landmark in a foreign country, in the surprising location of the Tangier medina.
And they live in a place intimately linked with that history. After all, it was the just-seeing-if-you-care Moroccan corsair capture of the American brigantine Betsey in 1784 off the coast of Cadiz that eventually led to those same historically friendly relations between the two countries.
Thanks to the men and women of US Naval Station Rota who made this visit a worthwhile investment of my time. Hope to see you in Tangier!
Text and photos: Gerald Loftus