By: Kate Bennett
In past years just about the loneliest place you could be on July 4th was the U.S. chief of mission’s house in Havana, Cuba. Every year a handful of diplomats at the U.S. Interests Section in Havana would throw a party—and every year it was a bust.
Not this time. So many people came to toast the USA in Havana last weekend there was a traffic jam outside the stately mansion of Chief of Mission Jeffrey DeLaurentis, who on July 20th will be upgraded to be U.S. charge d’affaires in Cuba. Guests, including diplomats from other countries who are based in Havana, business people, members of the military, Cuban civil society leaders and senior religious officials, dined and sipped cocktails on the outdoor terrace beneath a giant American flag hung from the second-floor balcony.“I would say it had to be more than 300 people,” says James Williams, president of Engage Cuba, a PAC that encourages American-Cuban relations, who attended the July 4th event. “It felt like the dawn of a new era.”
It was no coincidence, of course, that President Barack Obama announced last December that he would reestablish diplomatic relations with Cuba after a half-century, and Cuban leader Raúl Castro reciprocated. As controversial as that move has proved to be in the U.S., it’s playing to raves in Havana. As one European diplomat in attendance commented, “The Americans throw this party every year, but for the first time people actually wanted to come.”