Long shot-- Anyone familiar with Guantanamo?

not referring to the prison camp but the city and province
This is going to be hard to explain clearly however I’m going to try and do it as clearly as I can. It’s one of my fiction-related threads but isn’t a plot question.

(Warning: Long post!)

The situation: I’m revising (for a given value of revising) an old Young Adult novel idea I started a few months back which was loosely inspired by and deconstructs Evita. Its protagonist is a clone (again for a given value of “clone”) of Che created by a Cuban Juan Peron with the name Juan Valverde and modified to resemble his adopted parents (two household servants) a bit more, the setting is near-future Guantanamo in eastern Cuba close to the Sierra Maestra and one theme is the way myths about long-dead national heroes can be used to serve all types of political ends* and the manipulation of images and the truth to gain political supporters as well as the lengths people will go to “rise” in social status. This is more of a coming-of-age story than a commentary on politics and anti-imperialism and anti-American even though it isn’t entirely about coming-of-age either. It’s a mixture of both.

I chose Cuba for obvious symbolic reasons. There’s an ambiguity to Che in Evita– according to Tim Rice he based Che in the musical on Guevara, making the character both Che and “not” Che (Guevara) at the same time. A clone of a person would also be that person and not that person at the same time and the being a clone of Che would also tie into my themes. Che (Guevara) is associated with Cuba and the Sierra Maestra played an important role in Cuban resistance before and during the Cuban Revolution. Symbolically a clone of Che with links to Guantanamo City makes a lot of sense; not only are there links to the Revolution in eastern Cuba generally, but the American military base/refugee and prison camp is in Guantanamo. The near-future Cuba this story is set in resembles the country during the Batista era because the US installed a puppet dictator again.

Anyway this all leads into the point of this thread: Are there any Dopers who have been to Cuba, specifically rural areas, or even visited Guantanamo Province? Most of my information about life in modern Cuba- which I used in the first version of the first draft- comes from an online friend who was raised in Austria but goes back to Holguin every year to see her relatives. (She’s a year older than me). Her family’s from the city but she told me that it’s the fashion for city kids to act/speak like guajiros.

What I know is that life in Cuban villages is generally not that different from stuff I heard about life in Malaysian villages in the 1960s (family stories); people use(d) wood stoves, keep chickens and/or other animals and guard dogs, everyone is generally poor. In the past death from infectious diseases was very common (most biographies of former Cuban President Batista mention the death of one of his brothers from TB).

But what is life in rural Cuba actually like beyond the average farmer/fisherman living in a bohio (shack), using a horse-drawn cart (and as Nava said common-law marriage being more accepted)? Anyone know? Not necessarily Guantanamo or eastern Cuba despite the title, although I’d really appreciate it if anyone has personal experience on those places. (One important location other than the city of Guantanamo is Caimanerawhere the pair of servants who raised clone-Che as their son grew up.

Apologies for the long and rambly explanation. Hope my question is clear.

not to get into a political and/or religious discussion here but I’m thinking about appeal to celebrity when someone says something along the lines of "X (national hero/Icon) supported this, so X would support us so if you agree with the government/agree that X was a good person you’d also support us as our ideals are in the true spirit of X’s ideals."


[sub]This 5-minute edit window’s so annoying![/sub]

You can get an idea from google earth, how undeveloped , lacking of facility, and isolated the town is . One park for the entire town ? one playing field for a city ?

You can find descriptions of why the towns exist … perhaps the children had the issues with the character of the town - and the charector of the women of the town - eg many families had children of different fathers.

eg >>>>


Thanks Isilder!

Oh btw nice Tolkien reference in your username!

Anyone have personal experience of Guantanamo Province?

EDIT to last post: That’s (kind of) what I’m looking for (as said in the OP).

As a sidenote, I was aware of the bad reputation of Caimanera as an area where prostitution flourished but never knew that there was a specific red-light district/tolerated zone (probably for the American soldiers and sailors). Also one of the major characters-- Che’s foil, as I said basically the Eva Peron of ALW’s musical Evita(not the historical Evita) if she was First Lady of near-future Cuba instead of Argentina-- is known as the Jewel of Caimanera and once worked as a B-girl in a Havana bar/brothel when she was 15. She was raised in a similar establishment in Caimanera as the youngest of five children.

That sort of relationship is the same principle as the number “Goodnight and Thank You”:

*There is no one, no one at all,
Never has been and never will be a lover
Male or female,
Who hasn’t an eye on
In fact they rely on
Tricks they can try on their partner
They’re hoping their lover
Will help them or keep them
Support them, promote them… *

Basically, start romantic relationships with people with better connections than you in the hope they will eventually help you somehow. Common with jineteras (and B-girls in pre-Revolution Cuba) and in poor countries generally.

I wasn’t aware that any American citizen could leave the confines of the base and into Cuba proper. I was there in the '80s for a couple of weeks (US Navy Damage Control training during the day at sea, and we’d pull in at night for abbreviated shore leave).

So when you mention the red-light district that may have catered to American sailors/soldiers, I don’t see how that could exist.

The gates were opened until about 1962 or so. The story we were told was that during the early 1960s unpleasantness some sailors were arrested on trumped up charges in town and after that no one was allowed off base. So any hookers that had US military customers are now in their 70s.

I think they used to be able to before the Revolution (there are certainly reports from about the 1940s-1950s of American military/naval personnel visiting local prostitutes in brothels and bars and a book I have-- Havana Before Castro contains an ad for the Paris Bar, a seedy establishment on the bay

Yeah, the pre-Revolution time period is pretty obvious now that you two bring it up.

I’ll just be sitting over here, keeping my mouth shut.

Don’t feel bad. When I’ve told people I spent a year there they without fail ask me about how much of Cuba I got to explore. The answer of course is none. I could see Cuba on the other side of the fence and the lights of the city in the distance. That’s about it.

Have you considered going there? And doing research?

Not meant to be an insult but there’s always one of these posts in a thread about the subject of writing about places you haven’t been to (not only mine. Googling “Writing a place you haven’t been to” or other variations turns up a load of threads about this subject).

A future Cuba that looks a lot like the Batista era is not going to be the same thing as how it is in modern day. There’s a lot of difference between “country ruled by dictator with an ideology” and “same country ruled by dictator with no clear ideology.” There’s more but I’ll explain in a later post. I have to leave in a few minutes.

This isn’t a political discussion so I’m going to keep it relatively brief. I might not be all that clear in what I’m trying to say so bear with me. (A lot of this stuff is very obvious)
RE ideologically influenced governements and governements with no clear ideology: I’m not talking about political parties and their general stances here but about something else.

The regime in power in Cuba right now is a Communist regime (at least superficially) which means that its laws and political decisions are based around an interpretation of Communist doctrine: capitalism is inherently exploitative so let’s make everybody equal by seizing businesses and controlling all enterprises. Also we can’t have anyone opposed to us or (possible) supporters of the old government of capitalist scum around— let’s hold trials to make sure all our opponents are permanently taken out. Let’s also make sure everyone is told how beneficial it is to become a good communist and that capitalism is evil! (well unbridled capitalism *is *evil…) Communism has been the main rationale behind most bad Cuban government decisions (and some of the good ones) since 1959.

Now from the late 1930s to the early 1950s Cuba’s president was Fulgencio Batista, a man whose political career can be summarized by the song The Art Of The Possible:

*One has no rules,
Is not precise.
One rarely acts
The same way twice
One spurns no device
Practicing the art of the possible.

One always picks
The easy fight
One praises fools
One smothers light
One shifts left to right
It’s part of the art of the possible*

One minute Batista was all for the freedom of the press and other liberal reforms (he built free TB clinics and instituted a vaccination program for most infectious diseases- diptheria, polio, measles and built schools in rural areas. He allowed the formation of rival political parties and supported the Constitution of 1940) the next he was a dictator who took away constitutional rights. He shifted from left-wing to right-wing
and “picked the easy fight” (elites, businesses, later Communists). He was skilled at politics and propped up a succession of bad presidents as a power-gaining move.

Cuba at the time of the the Batistatos was a very different place to now. More people lived in absolute poverty and corruption was much more obvious: it wasn’t uncommon for the secret police to kill political opponents.

Tangent: Apologies if I sound defensive, but just in case anyone wants to know why I’m not “writing what I know”(possible given what this thread’s about) my answer is “read the OP again.” I chose to set this in Cuba for a reason; to make a point that doesn’t work if the setting is somewhere without a history of political instability and the strong connection to Che Guevara.