Royal history was made on Sunday, when The Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall stepped off of their plane and onto Cuban soil. In doing so, Charles and Camilla became the first British royals to have ever visited the communist country of Cuba.
Following on from more than a week in the Caribbean, visiting St Kits and Nevis, and amongst other countries, this trip is an opportunity for the couple to delve into all aspects of cultural as well as academic connections between Cuba and the UK. Some highlights of the tour will include topics such as youth entrepreneurship, heritage restoration, sustainable agriculture and the arts.
After receiving an official welcome from the official Cuban representatives in Havana, the Prince and Duchess were taken to a wreath-laying ceremony for Jose Marti, one of Cuba’s revolutionary heroes. In 1895, Marti fought and died in the Battle of Dos Rios against Spain. Jose Marti has since become a national figurehead and symbol of Cuba’s fight for independence against Spain. Prince Charles laid the wreath at the open air Jose Marti Monument in Revolution Square. Made of Cuban marble, the star-shaped tower is supposed to be the largest monument in the world that is dedicated to a writer.
Inside the monument, Charles and Camilla were given a tour of the museum that is dedicated to Marti. Curator of the museum, Eva Maria Diaz shared details about Marti’s life with the Royals, including that he was not only an essayist but also a poet, a revolutionary thinker and a political theorist.
Additionally, Ms. Diaz spoke about the history of the city of Havana, to which The Prince of Wales pointed out that Britain had once occupied the city back in the 18th century, albeit briefly. Charles expressed that he had learnt a great deal about Jose Marti and would enjoy being able to spend more time in Cuba, even joking: “You might get fed up with us very quickly.”
This tour is enabling conversations to take place that wouldn’t have happened otherwise. It is providing an opportunity to develop Britain’s relationship with Cuba which will hopefully help the British government to connect and do business with Cuba in the post-Brexit future.
On Monday morning (25th), Prince Charles and Camilla were treated to an exciting tour around Old Havana by Dr. Eusebio Leal, official historian of Havana. This year will mark the 500th anniversary of the founding of the city of Havana. Gorgeous 18th-century colonial Spanish buildings were the backdrop for the royal walkabout, amongst many of the city’s locals, as well as a plethora of tourists.
Along the guided tour, the royal couple visited Plaza de Armas, which is the oldest square in the city and El Templete, the site of the first mass and town council of San Cristobal de la Habana. Charles and Camilla stopped in to the Acosta Dance School to watch some of the young dancers performances. Carlos Acosta founded the school so that young, aspiring dancers would have a place where they could develop and grow their talent. Acosta danced with the Royal Ballet for 17 years and was awarded with a CBE in 2014. He is in line to become the Artistic Director of the Birmingham Royal Ballet in 2020.
After the dance performances, the Prince and the Duchess went to individual engagements. The Duchess of Cornwall made a visit to the Hogar Materno Leonor Perez maternity home, one of the top centres in the country. It provides not only medical help to the pregnant women that need it but different kinds of support as well. Camilla’s warmth and true kindness was on full display as she visited with some of the mothers-to-be at the centre, genuinely interested in each one’s individual story and circumstances.
Meanwhile, the Prince of Wales watched a training session and chatted with some of the boxers from the Rafael Trejo Boxing Gym. The gym provides classes in the sport of boxing for schools and also for members of the community. Boxing is a huge sport in Cuba and the country’s boxers are extremely successful in the sport. Currently, Cuba holds the World Series of Boxing title.
Whilst strolling through the city, the royal couple popped into a barbershop for a bit of relief from the scorching heat. One of the hairdressers asked the heir to the throne jokingly, would he like a little trim off of his royal curls to which the panicked Prince replied “No, no, I don’t need a haircut.” The owner tried to entice The Prince of Wales into a cut but finally accepted the fact that Prince Charles was happy with his present ‘do.
Next stop for the day was a trip to the Muraleando Community Centre. Members of the community are able to take part in a wide variety of workshops provided by the centre. There is something for everyone, from handicrafts and painting to dance. The main goal of the workshops is to promote equality and social inclusion. The Centre is open to all who want to take part, no matter what age one may be.
Towards the end of the royal couples jam-packed day, The Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall were received by the President of Cuba, Miguel Diaz Canel and his wife, at the Palacio de la Revolution for an official welcome dinner. It seems to have been a calmer end to quite a busy but enjoyable day.