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Home » Culture » Cuba » Places » Cities and Sites » Guantanamo



Guantanamo, Cuba. Guantanamo is most well-known as being the location of the US naval base which currently houses alleged terrorists.

Guantanamo is most well-known as being the location of the US naval base which currently houses alleged terrorists. Outside the detention camp – which only occupies a small area of the Guantanamo region – Guantanamo’s major industries include sugar and coffee. The area is located on the southeastern coast of the island, approximately 900 miles from the capital, Havana.

The Bay itself is surrounded by large mountain ranges, which isolate it from the rest of the country. The name ‘Guantanamo’ is the original name for the area, first used by the indigenous Taino tribe, which inhabited the island before Spanish colonization. The naval base that exists today was established there in 1902, after the US invasion of Cuba in the 1898 Spanish-American War. The United States would be allowed continued use of the naval base in return for its withdrawal of troops from all other parts of the country. This agreement was called the Cuban-American Treaty, signed in 1903. In 1934 the Avery Porko Treaty was signed, granting Cuba access to the bay itself, as well as increasing the lease fee from $2,000 to $4,085 in today’s money. The Cuban Revolution in the 1950s changed the relatively little, with the US arguing that the base’s status was unaffected by a new regime – a stance opposed by the new leader, Fidel Castro. Since then, only one cheque has been cashed by the Cuban government as a mark of protest against the continued American presence. Cuba, for its part, claims that the agreements signed in both 1903 and 1934 were forcibly imposed on the country, and in any case violate modern international law. The issue is still a thorn in the relationship between Cuba and the United States.

The base covers an area of forty-five square miles on both the western and eastern sides of the bay. United States now posses jurisdiction and control of the naval base, although Cuba maintains ultimate sovereignty – a somewhat ambiguous clause. The Guantanamo Bay detention camp – which is located within the naval base – was established in 2002, with the intention of detaining alleged terrorists, who are considered extremely dangerous. The camp is a source of much controversy: the American government considers it to be an important tool in its fight against terrorism, arguing that if the inmates were released, they would execute attacks on western countries; meanwhile, human rights activists and some western governments have denounced the facility as an affront to western values, principally the holding of detainees without charge for many years, as well as allegations of torture by the camp’s guards. The future of the detention camp remains uncertain. Upon his election as president, Barack Obama signed an executive order to close the center, but due to congressional stalemate and no agreeable location to imprison the remaining detainees, the camp remains operational as of 2013.

The province of Guantanamo has much more than the detention center, including the city of Baracoa, which is Cuba’s oldest city, having been founded in 1511 as the island’s capital. Since the 1990s, tourism has overtaken cocoa and coffee to become the main source of income, due to the outstanding beauty that pervades the area. The city’s heritage as a cocoa manufacturer has given its nickname as the City of Chocolate, and much of its food delicacies are based on the popular sweet. Due to its exotic location, the area around Guantanamo maintains a constant average temperature of about thirty degrees all year round.