External Affairs

In Photos: The Edge of Eastern Cuba Tells a Tale of Two Guantanamos

Guantanamo the city and Guantanamo the US naval base are testament to the gulf between the two countries and their cultures.

A combination picture shows a cardboard grenade hanging inside a military vehicle at the US Naval Base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, June 3, 2017 (L) and electricity wires over a busy street in the city of Guantanamo, Cuba, December 6, 2017. Credit: Reuters/Carlos Barria

Cuba: On the eastern edge of Cuba, lies the tale of two cities, Guantanamo the city and Guantanamo the US naval base. Both are testament to the gulf between the two countries and their cultures.

On the base, the uniforms are camouflage. In the city, they are for school or sports. Magazines and books fill the spare time of those at the base, while in the city, cafes, parades and dominoes play that role.

The base is more than a century old, but the Cuban government that came to power with the 1959 revolution has considered it illegal under international law. The US decision in 2002 to send foreign terrorism suspects to a newly constructed detention camp on the base heightened tensions.

Now US President Donald Trump has ordered this week that the center remain open after his predecessor, Barack Obama, unsuccessfully attempted to close the widely condemned prison. Its inmate population stands at 41.

Just 18 miles (29 km) apart, the base on the bay with 5,500 personnel and the inland city of 217,000 people do not mix. Their radio stations chronicle their separate and distinct lives.

A combination picture shows an unidentified member of the US Army standing by an empty cell inside a prison at the US Naval Base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, June 3, 2017 (L) and a girl taking a break during a soccer game under heavy rain in the city of Guantanamo, Cuba, December 6, 2017. Credit: Reuters/Carlos Barria

Radio Reloj, a Cuban government-run station, promotes the culture of Cuba under the island’s communist leadership. It extols the virtues of a 20-year-old swimmer who qualifies for the World Aquatics Championships in Budapest as well as the booming potato exports to Latin America. The sound of a ticking clock – a “reloj” in Spanish – hums beneath the announcements.

At the US naval base, however, Radio Gitmo caters to an expat community, offering tips on the optimal amount of alcohol to consume after dinner and warning of the negative effects of feeding the bay’s iguana population.

The two Guantanamos capture the stark contrasts of the neighbouring populations with hardly any communication between them. Still, small strands of similarity could be found. At the base, a US soldier patrols the area, while a portrait of Cuban revolutionary hero Che Guevara adorns a wall in the city.

An austere, windowless cell for detainees contrasts with locals playing dominoes outside their homes at dusk. A lone prisoner walks along a dark cellblock, while a group of passengers ride the local bus.

Guantanamo is a stark mix of military order or spontaneous joy, bunkers or bright blue doors, Caribbean sea or sugar cane fields.

A combination picture shows a road near a prison at the US Naval Base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, June 3, 2017 (L) and a boy walking along train rails in the outskirts of the city of Guantanamo, Cuba, December 6, 2017. Credit: Reuters/Carlos Barria

A combination picture shows a road near a prison at the US Naval Base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, June 3, 2017 (L) and a boy walking along train rails in the outskirts of the city of Guantanamo, Cuba, December 6, 2017. Credit: Reuters/Carlos Barria

A combination picture shows an unidentified member of the US Army standing by an empty cell inside a prison at the US Naval Base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, June 3, 2017 (L) and a girl standing by a fast food restaurant in the city of Guantanamo, Cuba, December 6, 2017. Credit: Reuters/Carlos Barria

A combination picture shows an unidentified member of the US Army standing by an empty cell inside a prison at the US Naval Base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, June 3, 2017 (L) and a girl standing by a fast food restaurant in the city of Guantanamo, Cuba, December 6, 2017. Credit: Reuters/Carlos Barria

A combination picture shows an exit door where released detainees are turned over to the countries that have agreed to accept them at the Guantanamo Bay US Naval Base, Cuba, June 3, 2017 (L) and a woman riding a train in the city of Guantanamo, Cuba, December 6, 2017. Credit: Reuters/Carlos Barria

A combination picture shows an exit door where released detainees are turned over to the countries that have agreed to accept them at the Guantanamo Bay US Naval Base, Cuba, June 3, 2017 (L) and a woman riding a train in the city of Guantanamo, Cuba, December 6, 2017. Credit: Reuters/Carlos Barria

A combination picture shows books inside a sample cell displayed within Joint Task Force Guantanamo's Camp VI at the US Naval Base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, June 3, 2017 (L) and food displayed on shelves at a market in the city of Guantanamo, Cuba, December 7, 2017. Credit: Reuters/Carlos Barria

A combination picture shows books inside a sample cell displayed within Joint Task Force Guantanamo’s Camp VI at the US Naval Base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, June 3, 2017 (L) and food displayed on shelves at a market in the city of Guantanamo, Cuba, December 7, 2017. Credit: Reuters/Carlos Barria

A combination picture shows a buoy near the US Naval Base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, June 2, 2017 (L) and a sugar cane field near the city of Guantanamo, Cuba, December 7, 2017.  Credit: Reuters/Carlos Barria

A combination picture shows a buoy near the US Naval Base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, June 2, 2017 (L) and a sugar cane field near the city of Guantanamo, Cuba, December 7, 2017. Credit: Reuters/Carlos Barria

A combination picture shows magazines at a coffee shop at the US Naval Base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, June 2, 2017 (L) and a man sitting outside a house waiting to join a parade during a local holiday in the city of Guantanamo, Cuba, December 7, 2017. Credit: Reuters/Carlos Barria

A combination picture shows magazines at a coffee shop at the US Naval Base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, June 2, 2017 (L) and a man sitting outside a house waiting to join a parade during a local holiday in the city of Guantanamo, Cuba, December 7, 2017. Credit: Reuters/Carlos Barria

A combination picture shows a fence at the US Naval Base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, June 2, 2017 (L) and a window of a house in the city of Guantanamo, Cuba, December 7, 2017. Credit: Reuters/Carlos Barria

A combination picture shows a fence at the US Naval Base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, June 2, 2017 (L) and a window of a house in the city of Guantanamo, Cuba, December 7, 2017. Credit: Reuters/Carlos Barria

A combination picture shows an entrance to a bunker at the US Naval Base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, June 2, 2017 (L) and a house door in the city of Guantanamo, Cuba, December 6, 2017. Credit: Reuters/Carlos Barria

A combination picture shows an entrance to a bunker at the US Naval Base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, June 2, 2017 (L) and a house door in the city of Guantanamo, Cuba, December 6, 2017. Credit: Reuters/Carlos Barria

A combination picture shows clocks showing time in different capitals of the world at the US Naval Base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, June 3, 2017 (L) and globes and books inside a local school in the city of Guantanamo, Cuba, December 7, 2017. Credit: Reuters/Carlos Barria

A combination picture shows clocks showing time in different capitals of the world at the US Naval Base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, June 3, 2017 (L) and globes and books inside a local school in the city of Guantanamo, Cuba, December 7, 2017. Credit: Reuters/Carlos Barria

A combination picture shows public telephones outside a shopping mall at the US Naval Base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, June 2, 2017 (L) and empty tables and chairs inside a children's play area in the city of Guantanamo, Cuba, December 7, 2017. Credit: Reuters/Carlos Barria

A combination picture shows public telephones outside a shopping mall at the US Naval Base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, June 2, 2017 (L) and empty tables and chairs inside a children’s play area in the city of Guantanamo, Cuba, December 7, 2017. Credit: Reuters/Carlos Barria

(Reuters)

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