U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry was in Cuba today to officially re-open the American Embassy in Havana, which for years as operated in the same harbor-front building as a diplomatically-downgraded United States Interests Section. This is a must-visit location during any trip to Havana.
I love the intrigue of this place, for it has been a flashpoint of propaganda exchanges between the USA and the communist island. In the midst of the Elián González dispute, an “Anti-Imperialism Park” was constructed around the U.S. Interests Section in which anti-US propaganda was broadcast over loudspeakers and marches and protests were routinely held.
In 2006, the US Interests Sections began using an electronic billboard in the windows of the top floor with such quips as “How sad that all the people who would know how to run this country are driving taxis or cutting hair.” A “Mount of Flags” was added to obstruct this sign from public view with dozens of Cuban flags. The Cubans also responded with billboards like this:
Perhaps the first step of diplomacy by the Obama Administration hinting at things to come was the removal of the electronic billboard in 2009. I was in Cuba in 2012 and the staging ground around the US Interests Section was eerily quiet. Even the flag poles were bare:
Stay tuned for my Cuba trip report — it is written and will be published in the days ahead.