Spending almost an entire year at Guantanamo Bay Cuba was a blessing but also a a nightmare. It was a blessing because it was peaceful out there and you can save a lot of money being on the island and the good, hospitable folks in base. The downside is that everything seems to be boring and repetitive with the same people, same place, and same schedule. You are literally stuck on the island especially if you’re stationed there as a Military personnel. This was a nightmare that has haunted me ever since. Anyways, during those months, I managed to find ways to combat my boredom by exploring the island and finding some historical places that are noteworthy to see. Here is the list of the places I have visited, explained in details from first to last.
1. Chapel of Our Lady of Cobre
This is the chapel on top of a hill overlooking the downtown of GTMO base; the chapel and its surrounding office building is a unique feature. Most GTMO buildings were built with the contemporary designs while those two with their red roofs and white wooden walls stand out. There was not a lot of history about the place but as far as I know, it was built around 1905 to 1910.
2. Marine White House
Located in Marine Hill, this building has the similar architecture as the chapel, which is also located on a Hill. It is located further down the road right before the Naval Hospital. Marine Corps Units have inhabited the area with some of the Navy. The interesting part about the building is they have a small museum dedicated to the Marine Corps who fought on the island and that is where the sign-up sheet for our next destination is located at.
3. Northeast Gate
One of the famous landmarks in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba is the gateway to the “real” Cuba. It used to be the main entrance for people entering and exiting the base until Fidel Castro took over. Some of the interesting sites nearby is the fence itself, the Marine barracks where both sides usually held meetings, also known as the US and Cuban gate.
4. Fort Conde
This fort was built in the 1900s as a defense for invading ships but it was never completed. It was started by the Army but was never finished due to budget issues. It is located at the Leeward side of the island so you have to take a boat to cross over to the bay. There is also a weekly tour every Sunday where you can learn a lot about the fort. Be care to take caution of the blood-sucking mosquitoes.
5. Kittery Fence
I do not think this fence that runs through the boundaries of the base and Cuba is anything but historical. However, it was still nice to see and touch the fence that many believed to be the fence linking the two countries together. Also, this picture was taken right after Hurricane Matthew of 2016; hopefully they won’t rebuild it to remind us of that “devastating” event.
6. Hospital Cay
This is another place that you can only access by boat. It served as a hospital during the outbreak of Yellow Fever in 1854 and also a trivia; Only one person was recorded to have died in the cay. When the Americans took over, it served as a coaling station and a mine building. There are also remnants of the buildings and the rail tracks. The main purpose of the cay nowadays is for having picnics and BBQ.
7. Guantanamo Bay Lighthouse and Museum Center
The main historical attraction on the base is the GTMO lighthouse. Built in 1905, the present lighthouse serves as the base’s main museum. Collections of articles from the World Wars and more information about the base can be found here. There are also plenty of history from the Naval Base, ranging from the early years to the present. Additionally, artworks from the locals are on display.
8. Naval Hospital
Built in 1954, it is now currently the main hospital of the base. The infrastructure has its modern amenities and is considered to be the first Naval Hospital to be air conditioned.
9. Underground Hospital
Hidden in one of the hills, the underground hospital was constructed in 1946 and primarily served as an emergency hospital. Its current main purpose is a supply storage, an evacuation area during the hurricanes and was used for base drills. Another fact about this place was the polio outbreak on a submarine which caused one casualty, and the remainder of the crew were isolated here while the submarine was being cleaned.
The infamous camp was home to the GTMO detainees during their early years of imprisonment but after Camp Delta and Echo were built, they were transported there for safety and regulation issues. The camp became even more famous after it appeared in the movie, “Camp X-Ray” where the female guard grew a conscience on a detainee and resulted in her doubts about her loyalty to her duty. However, the area is currently off-limits.
U.S. Naval Cemetery
Another history galore for a history buff but unfortunately, not everyone is allowed to go inside the cemetery. The area is included in the heavy guarded side of the island and you need permission to enter. Most of the time, people must be accompanied by a tour guide to walk freely around the cemetery; however, that request was recently turned down.
This is a nice summary I have written of the historical things to see while on Guantanamo Bay. Besides experiencing the 4 “S’s” of swimming, scuba-diving, sailing and snorkeling on the island, a little bit of history wouldn’t hurt while touring around. Hope you guys have learned something new after reading my blog and you can also use this as reference on your future trip to GTMO.
Some of the information gathered was from an article on this website: