National Geographic : 1962 Feb
Boldly patterned gown of a Ka no labor contractor advertises his nation's independence, peacefully achieved in 1960. Insect appetites forced the laying of metal-armored cable to replace 41/2 miles of plastic-covered wire chewed up by termites at the Kano tracking station. Calabash bowls laden with pro duce crown the heads of market bound Kano women. day of the year. There tomato fields in end less series fill the miles around the site, wa tered by stone-lined irrigation channels from the island's central mountains. Few of the 350,000 islanders, I found, knew anything at all of the Mercury station. They seldom travel the long road to Maspalomas, where the station overlooks the Atlantic. Even the villagers nearby are too much con cerned with getting each day's supply of goat's milk, fish, and gofio (parched corn ground to a powder) to care about travelers in space. One Canary Islander, however, has seen his life revolutionized by the hungry Americans who work across the road from his tiny store restaurant. Three years ago Antonio Vega Vega earned a meager living from the local farmers and the tourists who come to swim at Maspalomas. His floors were dirt; his win dows had never known screens. 198 Lumber, screens, and paint donated by members of the Mercury crew have changed all that. Oilcloth now covers his tables. In his larder of canned goods I saw such delica cies as crabmeat, chicken, cocktail meatballs, Danish luncheon meat, salmon, potato salad. His cooler -the only locally owned electric refrigerator for miles around-holds a vari ety of European beers. Yet in his back room he still pumps wine, olive oil, and kerosene from three large barrels standing side by side. From his restaurant profits Antonio has branched out into the transportation busi ness. Each day I rode to and from Las Pal mas with the Mercury crew in one of his Volkswagen Microbuses. About half the Mercury men on Grand Canary have their families with them. One is Howard Gusa, a data-processing engineer, whose fourth child was born on the island.