Monday, Oct. 28th, 2019 at Lewis & Clark College Blair Woodard, Associate Professor of History, University of Portland
Visualizing Diplomacy: Resistance and Renegotiation at the U.S. Embassy in Havana, 1951-2018 Embassies occupy a unique position in liminal space. At once outside of the country they represent and yet very much connected to those places at the same time. Because of this simultaneous spatiality, embassies can become the center of international disputes and disagreements as well as celebrations and ceremony. The tension between the United States and Cuba has often played out in images and actions that centered on the U.S. embassy in Havana. More than just a building containing the U.S. diplomatic mission, the embassy has functioned as a primary contact zone between the two nations, a space where the relationship has b een made manifest in images, design, and public action for more than fifty years. Opened in 1952, the embassy’s modernist architecture and commanding location on Havana’s seawall highlighted an era of unquestioned U.S. dominance on the island. Following the 1959 revolution, the embassy became a contested landscape of repeated protest and negotiation. From the expulsion of diplomats and shuttering the building in 1961, to the interim phase as an interest section, and now restored to a full diplomatic mission, the embassy transformed into a stage (both literally and figuratively) for the ever-unfolding drama of U.S.-Cuban relations. Historic episodes such as the Mariel Boat Lift, the Elian Gonzalez dispute, billboard wars, punk rock shows, rapprochement, and “sonic attacks” have all played out in images and demonstrations in full view of the embassy doors.