“Guantánamo” was closed down last week, and it’s residents were transported to a new facility, in Moncure NC. There were no injuries, nor loss of life, and both the residents and new neighbors were thrilled to have it relocated to their community.
“Guantánamo” was the name I chose for the 250 square foot garden I created in front of our house at Oilseed Community where we spent the first two years after moving to North Carolina in 2007. There were three underlying reasons for the choice.
The first was due to my profound disappointment in my country’s choice to incarcerate and torture human beings without due process of law. I understood that some of the inmates at the prison in Cuba were criminals, but that does not demand a rescinding of legal and human rights – concepts previously supported by the United States of America.
The second reason was due to the name my friend Lyle chose for his garden some years back. Lyle’s garden is named “Cuba”, a name chosen by the inspiration he gained by learning about how the island nation of Cuba responded to the abrupt ending of their petroleum addiction after the demise of the Soviet Union in 1991. Cuba reacted to the loss of its Soviet supply line by instituting land reform, and encouraging farmers and agronomists to retool Cuban agricultural production to methods that did not require petroleum inputs, for fuel, fertilizers, or pesticides. This amazing story can be learned though a documentary produced by The Community Solution entitled “The Power of Community: How Cuba Survived Peak Oil”
In North Carolina, if you want to take more food off your garden than the deer do, you need to fence your garden in, giving it the look of a place more suited toward the incarceration of edibles than the nurturing of them. Lyle’s garden, surrounded by it’s eight-foot high fence, provided him and his family a space to produce their own food, without the need for fossil fuel inputs. My first exposure to gardens with tall fences was at Lyles’ when he provided Camille and me a room for a couple of nights on an exploratory visit we made to the area in April 2007. Needless to say, I was captivated by the concept.
The third reason for my name selection was due to the influence of a master kumu hula, Hokulani Holt-Padilla, who I had the pleasure of working with back in 2000- 2001 while working with the Kaho’olawe Island Reserve Commission. One of the many pieces of wisdom I gained from Hoku was that place names are important. She helped me understand that place names are part of what defines the spirit of a place, and its people.
Guantánamo was the name originally bestowed upon the southeastern area of the island by its original human inhabitants, the Taino. Columbus landed at the bay in 1494, promptly changed the name to Puerto Grande, and started the systematic decimation of the indigenous population.
When I told one of my Oilseed neighbors that I was considering naming the garden Guantánamo, their response was “Oh, don’t say that word!” For them, you see, that word represented the unjust incarceration and torture of human beings, and was something not very pleasant.
So there you have it. My little fortified garden was, from that point forward, known as Guantánamo. I wanted people (at least a few) to associate the name with a place of life, beauty, and sustenance rather than a collection of incarcerated and tortured humans. I was hopeful that our new president would stand by his campaign promise to close down the “detention camp” at Guantánamo Bay in his first few months in office. Since he didn’t, I did, with Lyle’s help. We moved the containers, with food growing in them to their new home next to my new garden, christened “The Sunken Gardens of Moncure”, since it is housed in an abandoned swimming pool.
That story will need to be told, in its own space in its own time, and will likely be titled “A Moveable Feast.”