|Ramon Baudin, 92 years old, is one of the oldest of the 23 Cuban exiles living at the U.S. Naval Station Guantanamo Bay. Brandon Thibodeaux for The Wall Street Journal|
Most of them are dead now. Mr. Baudin wakes at about 3:30 each morning and meditates. Then, before dawn, he walks the streets, talking, he says, with the ghosts of his fellow exiles: He sees Gustaff Polica, who raised two children on Guantanamo and whose body is buried in the hills. He spots a woman in white who went home to Cuba to die with her family after decades at Guantanamo.
“I pray for my dead friends,” Mr. Baudin said. “They’re by my side. They watch over me.”
Most of the Cubans live in a neighborhood of flat-roofed concrete houses built in 1960, their pastel blues and greens faded by the sun. From his window across the way, Mr. Romero often watches Mr. Baudin pass under a streetlight on his predawn walk.
As a boy, Mr. Romero accompanied his grandfather on a 30-foot banana boat, steering it along the shore. They stopped at the base each day to sell fruits and vegetables.
By 1960, the family’s standing with the Castro government had become precarious. Two of Mr. Romero’s cousins had been killed, and another was languishing in prison, he said.
|A home in the neighborhood where most of the 23 remaining Cuban exiles live. Brandon Thibodeaux for The Wall Street Journal|
Mr. Romero at first cried himself to sleep on the boat’s wooden seats. He eventually lived with a teacher from the base school, and then with the man who ran the lighthouse. Over the years, Mr. Romero worked as a janitor, firefighter and heavy-equipment operator. His favorite job was running and fixing the projector at the open-air base theater, the Lyceum. He retired with a small pension in 1998.
|Cuban exiles gather for a prayer inside the Cuban Community Center on the base. Brandon Thibodeaux for The Wall Street Journal|