No Man’s Land
An American History.
By Jonathan M. Hansen.
Hill & Wang. 428 pp. $35
Perhaps no single word evokes images of the divisive legacy of the war on terror more vividly than “Guantánamo”: orange jumpsuits, chainlink fences, “enhanced” interrogations. No wonder we forget that Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, is a beautiful place, and not solely the site of one of the world’s most notorious prisons. In Guantánamo, Jonathan Hansen, a professor of intellectual history at Harvard, captures both the natural splendor and the troubled past of the United States’ oldest naval outpost overseas, placing it front and center in the annals of American empire.
Occupying 45 square miles along Cuba’s southeastern coast, U.S. Naval Station Guantánamo Bay sits astride the bay’s picturesque southern channel. According to the terms of a lease agreement between the United States and Cuba, signed in 1903 in the aftermath of the Spanish-American War and renegotiated in 1934, the base can only revert to Cuban jurisdiction with U.S. consent. Thus, although formal diplomatic relations between the two countries ended in 1961, every year the U.S. Treasury Department issues a perfunctory $4,085 rent check to the government of Cuba, which authorities in Havana steadfastly refuse to cash.
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Michael J. Bustamante is a doctoral candidate in Latin American and Caribbean history at Yale University. He is a former research associate in Latin America studies at the Council on Foreign Relations.more from this author >>
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