Streets of Washington, written by John DeFerrari, covers some of DC’s most interesting buildings and history. John is the author of Historic Restaurants of Washington, D.C.: Capital Eats, published by the History Press, Inc. and also the author of Lost Washington DC.
Today Foreign Minister Bruno Rodríguez of Cuba once again raises the Cuban flag over the country’s venerable embassy building at 2630 16th Street NW, in the Meridian Hill neighborhood that was once home to many of the city’s finest embassies. Close by are the former Italian, Mexican, and Spanish embassies as well as the current embassies of Poland and Lithuania. For decades the building has quietly served as the Cuban Interests Section of the Swiss Embassy, but before that it had a long social career, hosting many of the city’s classiest balls and receptions.
Photo by the author.
The Republic of Cuba had a diplomatic outpost in Washington even before the country existed as an independent nation. In the 1890s, as Cubans mounted their war for independence from Spain, Gonzalo de Quesada (1868-1915) established a legation at the fashionable Raleigh Hotel on Pennsylvania Avenue. A graduate of Columbia University, Quesada had met revolutionary hero José Martí in New York at a rally of Cuban exiles; he quickly became an important figure in the struggle for independence. The movement had the sympathy of many Americans, and on President William McKinley’s inauguration day in March 1897, its flag flew proudly atop the Raleigh. “All sympathizers with the struggling patriots could not suppress a yell of patriotism as they observed the flag of the little would-be republic floating as proudly to the breeze as that of the big, powerful country the strong protection of which is sought,” wrote The Evening Star. (more…)