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Growing up at Guantanamo Bay

You could hardly blame WFOR-CBS 4 news director Cesar Aldama if, every once in a while, he stopped to gape at the big city. He was born in a town so small it had just one traffic light, so isolated that his football team couldn't play against other schools, so far from all known social and cultural trade routes that it practically declared a holiday when the first McDonald's opened.

And so precariously pitched on the razor's edge of the Cold War that it was surrounded by barbed wire and land mines. The rarest breed of all Cuban Americans, Aldama was born and raised on the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay.

``I know it sounds like it must have been wild and crazy,'' says the 46-year-old Aldama, who joined WFOR in 
Aldama March after seven years at CBS stations in Philadelphia. ``But it wasn't. It was Small Town U.S.A., just as small town as you could get. Everybody knew everybody. There was no crime and no drugs. We never locked our doors, and we never talked politics.''

For the past 50 years, most of the world has known Guantanamo Bay as a stark, often mysterious symbol of international tensions: the front line of Washington's five-decade standoff with Fidel Castro; the holding tank for tens of thousands of Haitian and Cuban refugees swept up in periodic U.S. crackdowns on illegal immigration; the bleak prison camp for accused al Qaeda terrorists.

But Aldama is part of a little-known and almost vanished half-world that existed outside the headlines -- the tiny community of internal exiles who stayed behind when Castro pulled the plug on the base's 2,000-strong Cuban work force in the mid-1960s. Read my full story on growing up on the base at Guantanamo Bay in Sunday's Miami Herald.


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Mr. Aldama must have been gobsmacked when he looked up and saw South Florida's own answer to the "EL", Metrorail. Bienvenidos a Miami, Sr. Aldama.

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