Victor Caldee plays guitar and sings in Spanish. He performs in the dining room of his Phoenix home. He is wearing an American Flag t-shirt and he closes his eyes and grins as he plays guitar.
Caldee moved to Phoenix from Cuba 20 years ago. He fled when Fidel Castro allowed masses of people to leave the country voluntarily. Caldee said he built a raft out of old oil barrels. It carried 19 members of his family from Cuba 90 miles across the ocean to Key West, Fl.
“27 hours in the raft. 27 hours,” Caldee said.
But before they landed, the U.S. Coast Guard caught them and sent his family to the American base at Guantanamo. Speaking through an interpreter, Caldee said for more than a year he lived in a crowded tent surrounded by barbed wire and land mines that kept detainees from escaping, but still even so he learned something there.
“When I arrived there to Guantanamo I realized the soldiers were the same as those in Cuba, young people, full of life, you understand? I thought, they aren’t bad, because when you say army you think, “Ah!” Caldee said. “But (they were) the same people, young people, full of desire to live, friendly. My mentality changed a lot.”
Caldee was allowed to create art at Guantanamo. One of his works is painted on the canvas from his tent at the base. It was in this artwork that he was able to express some of the vulnerability he felt.
“We were naked. We didn’t have laws that protected us,” Caldee said. “We didn’t have protection from any country. So I felt like that, like a naked person.”