Deliberately built to obscure as much as possible of the US Embassy in its former incarnation as the US Interest Section building, of which it sits directly in front, the Plaza Anti-Imperialista is a huge, sweeping space under a series of metal suspension arches like the ribs of a giant carcass. Many of the supports are covered in plaques bearing the names and quotes of Cubans and non-Cubans who have supported the country’s struggle for self-determination and independence over the last century or so.
Also known as Plaza de la Dignidad, the Plaza Anti-Imperialista open-air auditorium was hurriedly constructed in 2000 as a forum for Fidel Castro’s protestations and invective during the furore surrounding the flight to the US (and eventual return) of schoolboy Elián Gonzáles. In January 2006, North American diplomats began displaying messages about human rights via an electronic ticker-tape on the side of the building facing the plaza; the US termed this as an attempt to break Cuba’s “information blockade”; Fidel Castro denounced it as a “gross provocation”. Later that year the Cuban authorities retorted by erecting 138 black flags facing the ticker tape, each decorated with a white star and said to symbolize Cubans who have died as a result of violent acts against the country by unsympathetic regimes since the Revolution began in 1959. US diplomats subsequently announced in 2009 they would desist from displaying inflammatory messages: in return the numerous flag poles are now generally left bereft of flags. Today the plaza is as often used for free music concerts as speeches.