Uncommon Attraction: Cold War History at Pearls Airport, Grenada
Vestiges of foreign government influence are quite prevalent throughout the Caribbean, most of them rooted firmly in the region’s formative colonial era. France, the UK, Spain, Denmark and the Netherlands left the most lasting imprints, of course, but look closely along your travels and you’ll find that Portugal, Germany and even Sweden staked claims in the region way back when. Even less common, at least outside of Cuba, are any signs of the former Soviet Union, a fact that makes Peals Airport in Grenada so unique.
Pearls, Grenada’s first airport, is located along the northeastern coast, just a few miles up the road from Grenville, the island’s second largest town. The airport hasn’t been used for commercial service in years, mostly serving as a nice grazing area for local cows and goats, and a curious attraction for aviation and Cold War history buffs.
Remember when the U.S. Military invaded Grenada back in 1983? A major impetus for the incursion was the construction of Grenada’s current airport, Maurice Bishop International Airport, which was being undertaken with aid provided by Cuba and the Soviet Union. Supplies and personnel from Cuba were ferried into Grenada here at Pearls, making this a primary target for the invading U.S. forces.
Old planes, like the Cubana Airlines passenger aircraft pictured above, evidence the Cold War history of the area, as does this Soviet crop duster with “CCCP” still barely visible on the fuselage…
Locals I spoke to upon visiting Pearls this past Saturday told me both planes were damaged in the invasion, and have basically sat here rotting ever since.
In addition to making unique photo-ops, the old aircraft are interesting to explore both inside and out…
Grazing area and Cold War museum duties aside, Pearls Airport also serves as a base for Grenada law enforcement and a prime spot for the island’s drag racing competitions. (See videos here.) The runway also makes a good shortcut for those traveling between Grenville and the River Antoine Distillery just a few minutes north…
Old wounds remain fresh with some locals over the U.S. invasion, as do the cow patties around the decaying aircraft, so you’ll want to be careful about both when visiting here. Pearls Airport is definitely worth checking out, though, for the small window it provides to a different time.
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