“Guantánamo” has become an international symbol of torture, detention, national security, and conflict over America’s “War on Terror.” After more than a decade of bitter struggle over whether and how to “close Guantánamo,” in 2013, nearly 200 prisoners remain at the US naval station, or GTMO with 100 on hunger strike. The unique qualities of the site – its legal ambiguity, political isolation and geographic proximity, and architectures of confinement – have been used and reused for a wide range of people and purposes. These include Cuban workers in exile after the Revolution; Haitian refugees with HIV, first welcomed as asylum seekers but then confined in tent cities as threats to public health; and the War on Terror’s “enemy combatants.” GTMO and its residents have been inextricable, if often invisible, parts of America’s deepest policy conflicts: immigration, public health, human rights, and national security.
The Guantánamo Public Memory Project seeks to build public awareness of the century-long history of the US naval station at Guantánamo, Bay, Cuba, and foster dialogue on the future of this place and the policies it shapes. The Project is collecting stories, documents, photos, videos artwork, and oral testimonies from different perspectives and time periods throughout GTMO’s 100 year history. It is bringing that material to the public through a website, traveling exhibit, curriculum, public programs, and other media. The Project also invites diverse people to share their own stories of GTMO and engage in debate about the larger issues this site and others like it across the world raise. It originated as a project of the International Coalition of Sites of Conscience, which currently serves on the Steering Committee for the Project. The Project is now being developed by a growing collaboration of universities and organizations, coordinated from Columbia University’s Institute for the Study of Human Rights as part of its Alliance for Historical Dialogue and Accountability.