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|"A sleepy uninteresting town". Guantanamo is also described by Carlo Gebler [Driving through Cuba, Simon & Schuster, 1990] as "depressing with miserable one-storey houses".
For others, the mixed origins of its population whose majority descend from Jamaican settlers (lots here speak English) and Haitian immigrants (called franceses) make this Cuban town a place truly apart.
The remains of the so-called "economy" relies largely on the 100-year old US Base which "rents" (for $4,085 annually) some 30,000 acres (121 sq. kms) from the Cuban government in the huge (400 sq km) bay. Payments which Fidel has always refused to cash (except the first one, during the first year of the Revolución in 1959).
The military compound with its 7,000 soldiers (turned into a prison for alleged Al-Qaeda terrorists and Taliban fighters in 2002), has deprived the region of any opening it had on the sea. It supposedly has a golf course, five cinemas and a McDonald's. Duh.
The one-sided arrangement signed by US President Roosevelt in 1903 was changed in 1934 by another Roosevelt President (Franklin D.) to a 99-year lease reverting to Cuba's sovereignty in 2033.
It's from this base (GTMO in code, "Gitmo" for army savvies) that in 1898, the USA went on to conquer Puerto Rico with 500 men, taking over the sovereignty of yet another independent country; US military posted some 17,000 men at its Santiago base at the height of the Spanish-American war.
Parque Marti where you'll find Iglesia Santa Catalina; Plaza del Mercado and its neoclassic pink market building; Parque Zoologico, kind of rundown; Museo Municipal and its pre-Colombian artefacts.
Guess what, they're all on the US Naval Base. Join the Army, fight terrorism, defend the benefits of "Market Economy" and enjoy a suntan on a Cuban beach ! Duh.
Café Sol and Cafe Americana, Parque Marti ; Restaurant Caribe ; the Hotel Guantanamo restaurant is usually to be avoided. Maybe it's improved. Go check : calle 13 Norte.
Irie influence, mon, at the British West Indian Welfare Centre, calle Serafin Sanchez ; Haitian at Tumba Francesa; Cuban at Casa de la Cultura on Parque Marti . Also, a roughriders place, Club Nevada. A moviehouse on Parque Marti. Cuban radio stations : Rebelde AM550, Progreso AM810, Reloj AM960. US radio stations ? Turn that dial, you may hear some Marilyn Manson.
• Air Mariana Grajales Aeropuerto, (21) 32-4782 (4 weekly flights to/from La Habana) • Bus Daily 9-hour bus ride from La Habana; daily departures to Santiago and Baracoa : station is 5 km from centre on ave Camilo Cienfuegos Tel. (22) 62-8484 • Trains Daily trains from Santiago, a four-hour ride; to/from La Habana every 2nd day : station is on calle Pedro Perez, 400m north of Parque Marti • Car rentals Transtur, calle 13 Norte in Hotel Guantanamo (21) 35-5900
Depressing ? Not ! © sogestour •|• Casa de la Musica © sogestour
100 years young © sogestour •|• Noble pobre © sogestour
Ciclistas © sogestour •|• School's out © sogestour
Sierra Maestra stretches eastward and beachward. The province is 75% covered with mountains © Vlada Shchepinskaya, flickr.com
Caimanera's train station, a long time ago. It is said that in that town (where the base is situated), there were some 1,000 prostitutes on call for the US Armed Forces before the Revolucion.
The O Club one of many houses of yesteryear - before La Revolucion gave dignity back to Cuban women - used for highly-developed camaraderie with local women.
Each year local young singers manifest their support in remembrance of the martyrs of Guantanamo. Photo Leonel Escalona Furones, desdeesteladodelaisla
Caimanera, a bustling town before the Revolucion, supplying workers (and prostitutes : some say 1,200) for the US Base, had visitors from all over Cuba and Jamaica. Since 1991, it boasts a 20-room Islazul Hotel but no more than 400 visitors per year.
UP, UP AND AWAY
Paragliding is possible through local aficionados; takes place in the heights of the Sierra de Caballos. Best is to bring your equipment and make donations to locals, such as Andreus Torres Tandiaux, calle 51 No 5016 or call Elena on Calle 54 No 4500 tel. (21) 32-3992. Local annual event Copa Guantánamo de Parapente through José Angel Rodríguez Peña and Claudio Eternod held in January near Abra de Mariana in San Antonio del Sur Tel. (42) 20-5805; firstname.lastname@example.org
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Three ac bedrooms, ensuites
Calle Pedro A. Pérez #761, e/ Jesús del Sol y Prado, in the heart of town. Tel. (21) 32-5970
|ARIEN y MALENA V
One ac bedroom, ensuite
San Lino # 865, e/ Aguilera y Crombet. Tel. (21) 32-4914