The U.S. and Cuba reopened embassies in each other’s countries on Monday, ending a more than 50-year break in diplomatic relations.

Full relations were restored at midnight, setting in motion a day of flurried ceremonial events.

In Washington, Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez presided over a flag raising ceremony at Havana’s mission.

Three Cuban soldiers dressed in full regalia marched out of the embassy before attaching the flag to a pole in front of the three-story building. 

Hundreds of demonstrators, some celebrating while others protested, assembled outside of the embassy, filling the air with chants.

White House press secretary Josh Earnest said the opening was the result of respectful dialogue between the U.S. and Cuba and demonstrated that both countries don't have to be "imprisoned by the past."

He added that the U.S. looked forward to normalizing relations after half a century of discord. 

"We look forward to collaborating with the Cuban government on issues of common interest including counterterrorism and disaster response," Earnest said, "we we're confident that the best way to advance universal values like freedom of speech and assembly is through more engagement with the Cuban people."

Later Monday, Rodriguez will visit the State Department where he will meet with Secretary of State John Kerry. The top diplomats are expected to hold a press conference after their meeting.

At the State Department earlier Monday, the Cuban flag was hoisted alongside the flags of all countries with which the U.S. holds diplomatic relations.

In Havana, the former U.S. Interests Section, now embassy, officially changed its social media accounts to reflect the change, and the deputy chief of mission, Conrad Tribble, tweeted, “Just made first phone call to State Dept. Ops Center from United States Embassy Havana ever. It didn't exist in Jan 1961.”

Havana and Washington severed ties in 1961.

Kerry is expected to visit the U.S. embassy in Havana later this summer to preside over an opening ceremony.

Despite the resumption of full diplomatic relations, Washington and Havana continue to wrangle over a series of heated disputes, including the U.S.-imposed blockade on the communist island nation and Cuba's human rights record.

Anadolu Agency