Guantanamo Bay: Past and Present
Guantanamo Bay Naval Station, commonly referred to as “Gitmo”, is a semi-arid region on the southeastern tip of the island of Cuba. It has an average annual rainfall of approximately 24 inches, most of which falls during the hurricane season in autumn. The region is home to a variety of desert-type wildlife, including the Hutia (or Banana Rat) and the Cuban Rock Iguana. Both of these species are considered protected, because they are rarely seen outside the Gitmo area; inside the Naval Station, however, both species thrive.
The bay was first exposed to Western culture on 30 April 1494, when Christopher Columbus, on his second voyage to the new world, landed at a point now known as “Fisherman’s Point”. He named the bay “Puerto Grande”, or large port. However, not finding any prospects for his desired objective, gold, he left the next day. For the next couple of hundred years, the bay served as a refuge for pirates and for other ships seeking shelter from severe weather in the Caribbean.
The next noteworthy event in the bay’s history came in 1741, when the British landed at Guantanamo in an attempt to attack the city of Santiago de Cuba. The British referred to the bay alternately as “Walthenham Harbor” and “Cumberland Harbor.” Many of the troops became sick, and the British allegedly established a hospital on the bay’s largest islet, known to this day as “Hospital Cay”. This islet was again important in 1854, when a British ship with several yellow fever victims deposited them on the island, making the name permanent.
In 1898, the United States was at war with Spain. There was also a rebellion by the natives of Cuba against the Spanish Government. The U.S. decided to invade Cuba. On 6 June, telegraph cables connecting Guantanamo City to the rest of Cuba were cut where they ran across the bay by a Navy ship. On 10 June, Marines landed at Fisherman’s point, establishing the first U.S. Military presence on Cuban...