In researching the history of GTMO, I was struck by the delicate balance Cuban workers were forced to maintain between two rival spheres on a day-to-day basis. I found it interesting that, no matter where Cubans traveled between the two separate spheres of the U.S. and Cuba, each dictated in some way, shape, or form, how Cubans were to go about their lives. Specifically, it seemed as if the U.S. sphere on GTMO was responsible for Cubans’ livelihood, while the Cuban sphere outside of GTMO was responsible for Cubans’ lives.
Cuban workers understood this reality: they understood the effects, both positive and negative, that transversing each of these spheres could have upon their lives. Thus, they were constantly required to remain aware of what they did, what they said, whom they socialized with, and what extracurricular activities they were involved in, amongst other things. As we go about our daily lives, are we ever concerned that what we do or say at work, or an association with a friend we may have outside of work, could bring harm to us, or a family member? In most cases, the answer would be no. Thus, I cannot imagine confronting this type of constant, nagging worry on a day-to-day basis.
Developing a more acute understanding of Cuban workers’ lives during the mid-twentieth century has made me more aware of the simple fact that ordinary people carried the burden of two rivaling powers’ quandary every day. Furthermore, they were required to adapt to different ideologies and governance structures fluidly every time they entered GTMO’s gates or exited onto Cuban terrain once more. That, I believe, is an extreme task to undertake successfully. I would hope others would understand the same.
I am not highlighting these findings to say Cuban workers were a skittish bunch that constantly lived in fear; rather, I want others to understand that Cuban workers were required to develop a keen “sixth sense” of awareness, if you will. Fear did not shape each and every of the Cuban workers’ actions; yet they understood that their actions had consequences, whether positive or negative, whether nominal or phenomenal. In essence, their actions were always up for interpretation by two separate governance structures. This is what I hope will be discerned. For how would you adapt to watchful eyes in two contrasting spheres?
Posted by Angela Thorpe-M.A. Candidate at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro