Era ends at Guantanamo as last 2 Cubans retire

One of the world`s most unusual commutes is coming to an end.

Cuba: One of the world`s most unusual commutes is coming to an end.

For more than a half century, Luis La Rosa and Harry Henry have left their homes before dawn each workday in the communist-run city of Guantanamo, where old American cars rumble past posters of the Castro brothers in a Cold War time warp, climbed into taxis and travelled to the US military base at Guantanamo Bay, where troops shop at a Wal-Mart-like store and eat at McDonald`s and Subway.

The commute takes less than an hour but spans two worlds and a heavily guarded border fence.
Now it is coming to an end. La Rosa, a 79-year-old welder who works at the base`s motor pool, and Henry, an 82-year-old office worker, are retiring at the end of the month and will be honored today at a retirement ceremony that will celebrate the uniqueness of their situation.

The close friends, who have a kind of celebrity status on the base, are the last of what were once hundreds of Cubans commuting daily to work at this isolated US military installation.

For them, it is a bittersweet moment a severing one of the last real links between Cuba and the US Navy base that has been an unwelcome presence on the island for generations.

"I feel a bit sad because I`m leaving, but I`m going to my country," La Rosa said yesterday after passing through the coils of razor wire and a checkpoint guarded by US Marines that separates the base from the rest of Cuba.

Though this spot is best known for the base`s prison for terrorism suspects, there is a substantial Cuban city of Guantanamo, which has a colonial downtown and a population of about 250,000. It lies to the northwest of the base, separated by mountains and marshland. A smaller city called Caimanera along the bay is the closest town to the US installation.

There are about 30 other Cubans who live on the post, and the base commander has a monthly meeting with his Cuban counterpart to discuss logistics and administrative issues. But the base and Cuba have almost nothing to do with each other, and that fact is more pronounced with the two men`s retirement.

"It is a real symbolic link that is disappearing," said Jonathan M Hansen, author of the book "Guantanamo: An American History."


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