The Guantánamo Public Memory Project (GPMP) Exhibit Opening and National Dialogue was a CLACS sponsored two-day event held at Columbia University/ Barnard College and the King Juan Carlos Center at NYU from December 13-14. Guantánamo has become an international symbol of torture, detention, national security, and conflict. But the US Naval Station in Cuba, or GTMO, opened more than a century before 9-11. It has represented both freedom and confinement: the price of Cuba’s independence from Spain; a “cactus curtain” containing communism; a treasured community for military families; and a flawed solution for both Cuban and Haitian refugees. Currently new facilities at GTMO are under construction as legal battles continue over the 166 “enemy combatants” still held there. The purpose of the Guantánamo Public Memory Project is to initiate dialogue about how we got here and What should happen next.
During the two-day event, the human and emotional aspects of the Guantánamo military base were all-present. Tears were shed when difficult topics such as the discriminatory treatment of Haitian refugees in comparison to their Cuban counterparts, racism, torture, and the treatment of women were discussed.
Students from all around the country came together to present their process of creating a project about a specific period in Guantánamo history, discussed the challenges they faced in making the project, and how their part of the interactive exhibit finally came into being. Expert speakers from different parts of the world attended the event, which included people who worked, lived, served, or were even held at GTMO from the Cold War period to the War on Terror.
Opening at the Kimmel Windows at the Kimmel Center on Washington Square, the traveling exhibit features images and stories from different periods and perspectives made public for the first time to grapple with the deeply contested questions around this place and its impact on people and policies around the world. Over 100 students around the country created the Guantánamo Public Memory Project’s first interactive traveling exhibit, which means changes and additions will be made as it travels around the country. Check the exhibit schedule to find out if the exhibit will be arriving to a city near you!
Sisa B. Holguín is Program Administrator at CLACS and Managing Editor for the CLACS-NYU Blog, and Elizabeth Con & Kailie Middleton are MA Candidates at CLACS at NYU