Cubans Divided at Flag Raising as the U.S. Restores Diplomatic Ties

Protesters criticized Cuba for what they say are human-rights abuses.

For the first time in more than half a century, the Cuban flag is flying in Washington, D.C.

On Monday, the United States and Cuba formally reestablished diplomatic ties after 56 years.

Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez, visiting the capital for the very first time, hoisted his nation's flag over Cuba's newly reopened embassy.

Outside the gates, hundreds of onlookers took in the historic occasion. Protesters loudly criticized what they say are human-rights violations by Cuba, while supporters hailed the day as a long-overdue victory.

Secretary of State John Kerry will raise the American flag over the U.S. embassy in Havana in August.

Hundreds of people braved stifling heat to witness the occasion, with supporters cheering the thawing of relations and protesters calling for an end to what they say are human-rights abuses by Cuba. (Emily DeRuy)
Laura Parra, 18, came to the United States from Havana six years ago. Parra called the embassy opening "just a fake diplomatic relationship. ...I believe the United States is doing a relationship with a government that doesn't believe that human rights is something to fight for." She does not support the restoring of diplomatic relations. (Emily DeRuy)
But Milagros Casilla, 69, is more optimistic. She came to the U.S. from Matanzas at age 13 with her brothers. "I am [in favor], with stipulations," she said at the flag raising. "I want it to be fair all the way around. I don't want my country to give, give, give and America to take, take, take." Kwesi Bantu, 35, agrees. While he is not Cuban, he called the day a happy one for people of African descent around the world. "African Americans, Cubans, Jamaicans," he said, "all of us have the same history." (Emily DeRuy)
Alli McCracken, a 26-year-old national organizer for the group Code Pink, said her organization hopes the event will "be a blueprint for moving forward." (Emily DeRuy)
One young Cuban-American who did not want to give his name said he saw the opening of the embassy as an opportunity to call on Cuba to, as his sign said, "normalize relations" with its own people and give them a voice. (Emily DeRuy)
Few people were permitted to enter the embassy's opening ceremony, and several protesters said the day felt "elitist." (Emily DeRuy)
Rosa Maria Paya, whose father, dissident Oswaldo Paya, was killed in Cuba, said she wanted to deliver a letter to the minister of public health. Her father died in a car crash that Paya and her family say occurred under suspicious circumstances. She has been critical of the Cuban government's failure to provide her family with information about the crash or to allow an investigation. (Emily DeRuy)
Giovanny Navarro, 25, from Miami, was on vacation in the District and decided to stop by the flag raising with a friend who is Cuban. "It's a long time in the making," he said. The older generation of Cubans in Miami isn't universally supportive of reestablishing ties with Cuba, he said, but the younger generation "is more lenient."   (Emily DeRuy)
"We're at war with everybody," said Christopher Elenn, 58. "World peace starts today." (Emily DeRuy)
The Cuban flag flies over the newly reopened embassy in Washington, D.C. After 56 years, Cuba and the United States have restored diplomatic relations.  (Emily DeRuy)