Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Back in Guantanamo

I remember visiting Guantanamo once, when I was growing up in Cuba back in the 1960s.

It was quite a trip. All the way from Banes, where we lived, to Guantanamo via Baracoa, where my mother had some distant relatives.

I must have been eight or so but I clearly remember a few things about the trip. Like the fact that it took us more than 24 hours to get there since public transport was almost non-existent in revolutionary Cuba back then.

And Guantanamo seemed like a huge town, buzzing with life, especially when compared to sleepy Banes.

One other thing I remember: everyone we met in Guantanamo seemed to have some connection with La Base, which is how everyone referred to the US naval base just a few minutes out of town.

For many guantanameros, the US base was a kind of forbidden, magical place, where there were never any food shortages, no committees for the defence of the Revolution keeping an eye on you, and no queues. It was El Norte right there in Cuba. But totally out of bounds.

Why am I telling you all this?

Well, I got thinking about Guantanamo today after reading this interesting piece by Reuters about the town in eastern Cuba that is home to some 200,000 residents – plus the US naval base.

According to the reporter, the international “furore” about Camp Delta seems to have “largely passed by the baking-hot streets of Guantanamo”, where life continues normally. Or as normally as life can continue in a place like Fidel Castro’s Cuba.

Although the naval base is just 18 miles from the town, it seems that the only US presence in Guantanamo itself is the radio station that broadcasts from inside the base.

The station is quite popular with younger Cubans, including a 28-year-old named Carlos, who is quoted as saying: "The music the Americans play is fantastic. You can't hear that on our radio stations.”

As for La Base, the reporter found that “like many younger Cubans, Carlos sees the United States as a land of opportunity where he would go if he could”.

Obviously, some things never change.


Post a Comment

<< Home