The Plaza de la Revolución fills much the same role in Havana as the National Mall does in Washington. It lies in the shadow of the city's tallest monument, constructed to honor the memory of the country's great revolutionary hero. Huge crowds, sometimes topping a million people, have crammed onto the concrete square to partake in patriotic ceremonies, concerts, or speeches by Fidel Castro or the Pope.
When I visited Cuba earlier this year, the Plaza was eerily empty. Dozens of vultures circled patiently overhead, as if waiting for the 83-year-old Castro and his 51-year-old revolution to succumb to the steady march of time.