16 April 2009

Guantanamo Bay history

Earlier this week, the the Chicago Sun-Times newspaper reported that US President Obama will ease restrictions on Cuba trade, travel. This is an historic reversal of U.S. policy. Since 9/11 we've heard a great deal about Guantanamo Bay and the detainees that are housed in the US naval station there. 

But just what do we know about the history of the area?

You may have had an ancestor who served on the island of Cuba as a Marine during the Spanish-American War, or wrote letters home from this stopping point during WWI.

Patrick McSherry chronicles the history of Guantanamo Bay and the contentious US Navy base with a timeline of events that goes back to Christopher Columbus's second voyage to the new world in 1494. Patrick mentions dollar figures spent by the US to develop the area, and how commercial ventures are not allowed. See "Guantanamo Bay" in History Magazine, April/May 2009, pages 10-12.

US authority for being on the island of Cuba is described in the article with info I'd never known before:

"First, it is not commonly realized that the initial agreement actually leased land for three naval bases. However, only the land at Guantanamo was actually used in the long term. A second base at Bahia Hondo was used for nine years before being abandoned. What is surprising to some is that the US still pays rent for the leased land. In 1903, the agreed annual payment for leasing the land at various locations in Cuba was $2,000 in gold. Presently, with inflation, the payment is more than $4,000. Protesting the base’s existence, former Cuban leader Fidel Castro refused to cash the lease payment checks provided by the US."

Isn't it enlightening to study up on the PLACE where our ancestor once lived and shed our 21st century cultural blinders. Its all about placing our ancestors in historical context.

Happy family tree climbing!
Myrt :)
Your friend in genealogy.

1 comment:

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