In a few days they will change the letterhead, replace the name plaque, and hoist the flag. This building with its green-tinted windows by the sea will cease to be called the Untied States Interests Section and become the United States Embassy in Havana. A transformation that transcends the question of a name, one with political, symbolic and even linguistic connotations.
The date chosen for the reopening, between the United States’ Independence Day and the anniversary of the assault on the Moncada Barracks, will enter the history books and mark a new anniversary to remember. However, only practice will have the last word on how the site will transform or expand its functions. For now, the questions are many.
Will national television stop broadcasting those programs denigrating Cuban dissidents where they use images of them entering the Interests Section, now the embassy? Will the police no longer wait outside for independent reporters to confiscate their technologies or the diplomas they received from the journalism courses held there? Will they return to us that piece of sidewalk facing the sea, where today the police block pedestrians because of its proximity to the gate of the diplomatic site?
It will be enough to say “the embassy” for all of us to know they mean this site, by the sea, with the green-tinted windows, which has ceased to be “the enemy."
Freedom of movement for American embassy officials should also be guaranteed, along with respect for their pouches and mailboxes. The ability to contact, visit and meet with civil society will have to stop being stigmatized. Now the diplomats of that country will be guests at commemorations and public acts. We might even see their faces in the Plaza of the Revolution during the May Day parade.
Hopefully, with the new diplomatic site we will also free ourselves from the enormous masts that disfigure the face of our city in front of the building’s façade, with which the Cuban government once wanted to cover the electronic ticker that displayed news items. Those times already seem long gone. The “anti-imperialist plaza” itself has lost a reason for being in a country whose president has smilingly shaken hands with the occupant of the White House.
The embassy will promote events, thematic film festivals, conferences with institutions, and concerts, as do those of other countries such as Canada, Spain, the Netherlands and Italy. Then we will see the stars and stripes on posters, flyers and invitations to cultural activities. Those who wear hats and dark glasses when they approach the place or contact its officials, now will arrive with uncovered faces and chins raised.
However, one of the most significant changes that will occur is in the language. People will stop the use of subterfuges to refer to the place and call it, directly, “the embassy.” Without nicknames, without specifying the country or detailing the ownership. It will be enough to say “the embassy” for all of us to know they mean this site, by the sea, with the green-tinted windows which has ceased to be “the enemy.”