The Plaza de la Dignidad (Plaza of Dignity, Malecón y Calzada), west of the Maine Monument , was created at the height of the Elián González fiasco in 1999–2000 from what was a grassy knoll in front of the U.S. Interests Section.
A statue of José Martí stands at the plaza’s eastern end, bearing in one arm a bronze likeness of young Elián while with the other he points an accusatory finger at the Interests Section—habaneros joke that Martí is trying to tell them, “Your visas are that way!”
The Cuban government also pumped US$2 million into constructing the Tribuna Abierta Anti-Imperialista (José Martí Anti-Imperialist Platform)—called jokingly by locals the “protestadromo”—at the west end of the plaza to accommodate the masses bused in to taunt Uncle Sam. The concrete supports bear plaques inscribed with the names of Communist and revolutionary heroes, plus those of prominent North Americans—from Benjamin Spock to Malcolm X—at the fore of the fight for social reforms.
At the western end of the plaza is the U.S. Interests Section (formerly the U.S. Embassy), where U.S. diplomats and CIA agents serve Uncle Sam’s whims behind a veil of mirrored-glass windows.
A forest of 73 huge flagstaffs was erected in front of the building in 2007 to block the ticker-tape anti-Castroite propaganda that the Bush administration churlishly initiated (each black flag represents one of the Cubans killed in a bombing of a Cubana airliner in 1976 by Cuban-American terrorists; the main perpetrator, Louís Posada Carriles, currently lives as a free man in the United States). President Obama sensibly ended the ticker.
One block south of the plaza, the H-shaped Edificio López Serrano (Calle L e/ 11 y 13) rascacielo (skyscraper) is one of the city’s most astonishing art deco apartment buildings. Built in 1932, it resembles a truncated Empire State Building. Pop inside to admire the deteriorated lobby of Moroccan red marble and the nickel-silver relief panel of Time.