By Michael Malone ~
Today we started our day by going to the United States embassy where we had a lecture with a member of the embassy staff. The lecture explained the history of the relationship between the United States and the Cuban government and people. The embassy itself is located right along the main major roadway which runs along the Malecón. It is a towering building that looks like a typical New York styled office building and sticks out like a sore thumb.
In the lecture we discussed the economic, political, and historical relations between the United States and Cuba. The portion of the lecture that stood out to me most was the history of our country with Cuba from the perspective of an American who has lived in Cuba for two years. He told us two stories about the embassy that were in a sense, embarrassing for the US.
The first story was the most embarrassing to be hearing about as an American, he explained why there are tons of flag poles across the street from the embassy. Before the Cuban Missile Crisis when the United States still had possession of our embassy, Cubans would rally outside the embassy. In response, the Ambassador at the time hung a marquee sign displaying messages about America being better than Cuba. In my opinion doing so is very embarrassing. In retaliation, Castro choose to put up flag poles from which he hung black flags that would block the embassy from view. In my opinion a country should never have to go to those lengths to retaliate.
The second story was about how the lecture hall we were in got its name. The lecture hall is called the “Eagle’s head room,” and is named after the eagle head they keep in the corner of room. The eagle head came from the Monument to the Victims of the USS Maine, on the Malecón close to the embassy. The ship was sunk at the beginning of the Spanish American war, but during a riot Cubans knocked down the statue as a symbol of imperialism. When the United States had to leave the embassy the Swiss took over the building and recovered the head (the body and wings are in the Havana City History Museum) and saved it because the eagle symbolized America and they hoped one day it could be replaced.
I didn’t like the way that the lecturer presented these events because the way he seemed to share them made it look like Cuba was entirely at fault for the ill will, when in actuality it was both sides acting like kids in a sandbox.