Guantanamo Bay is what is best described as a colonial settlement, military base, detention center, beach resort and sleepy fishing village crammed into 72 sq km (45 square miles) of pebbly Caribbean coast. It is neither Cuba nor America but it feels like downtown Maryland in places.
Guantánamo Bay is where you can buy a slice from Pizza Hut inside fake Irish pub in which most people are drinking Bud Light instead of Guinness. Guantanamo Bay probably has the last Blockbuster store in the United States.
Gitmo is supposedly “the Pearl of the Antilles,” with Havana just 800KM (500 miles) away while Haiti, just of the GITMO coast can be seen on a clear Caribbean day.
American forces established a foothold here in 1898 while defeating Spain and assisting Cuba achieve its long overdue independence, for which the United States was given “complete jurisdiction and control” over this sliver of land in 1903 for $4,085 per annum.
There are approximately 4,000 Americans on the base at any one time, many of whom have lived at the base for years and call it home. The bases Radio Station called simply “Radio GTMO” says its “Rockin’ in Fidel’s Backyard,” whereas as aforementioned O’Kelly’s Bar advertises itself as “the only Irish pub on Communist soil” which is untrue as there are two Irish pubs in Havana, the Café O’Reilly and Bar Chico O’Farrill, both in Old Havana. However, O’Kelly’s advertising seems to be lacking as the Bases Tiki Bar or Bayview Club seem to attract a bigger crowd on weekends.
Oddly enough the Guantanamo Bay Naval base is not run by Americans but the 2,000 or so laborers who work here, most being from Jamaican or Philippines. Due to the large Jamaican contingent at the base you can eat Jamaican food at the Jerk House but American residents tend not to. On Friday nights there’s a karaoke Beach party held by the Filipino population. The 25 Cuban workers at the base also get their own restaurant at the Cuban Club, even less Americans can be found here on any given day.
The main galley for military personal at Gitmo is called the Iggy Café, after the rife local lizards. Dinner here costs about $4.50.
All goods from the US arrive at Gitmo on a barge that comes twice each month. There’s another popular café called Windjammer, down the block from the faux bowling alley, the golf course and the skate park, the marina, a thrift store, a McDonald’s, a Taco Bell, a Subway. Other well known places at GITMO are House of Yum, The Jerk Shack (Jamaican) and a large KFC outlet. Military personnel enjoy the Ground Zero Paintball grounds just east of the main base.