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Charles, Camilla tour Old Havana

Britain's Prince Charles (c-l) and his wife Camilla (c-r), the Duchess of Cornwall, watch a dance performance in Havana on March 25, 2019. EFE-EPA/Yander Zamora

Britain’s Prince Charles (c-l) and his wife Camilla (c-r), the Duchess of Cornwall, watch a dance performance in Havana on March 25, 2019. EFE-EPA/Yander Zamora

EFE

Britain’s Prince Charles and his wife Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall, toured Old Havana on Monday, strolling through the city full of history and music that was dominated by British troops between August 1762 and July 1763.

The tour of the old city - declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1982 was the first thing on the agenda of the royal couple, who are the first members of the British royal family to visit Cuba and whose presence has sparked great interest and expectation.

The royal couple strolled through the ancient streets in the company of the city’s official historian, Eusebio Leal, who is in charge of the restoration and conservation of the Old City and its many deteriorating buildings.

Surrounded by colorful buildings, street music and uniformed schoolchildren deployed on overhanging balconies, Charles and Camilla were clearly enjoying themselves, smiling at the onlookers, and the duchess opened a white parasol on part of the journey to protect herself from the intense Caribbean sun.

Havana, which this year celebrates its 500th anniversary as a city founded by the Spanish, was taken by English troops in 1762-1763 during the Seven Years War, and the occupation of the city was tough on local residents, who referred to the English troops as “mameyes” (breadfruit) because of the red color of their uniforms.

Charles and Camilla began their tour at the Templete on the Plaza de Armas, visited the Plaza Vieja and other points of interest in the old downtown area amid heavy security and under the astonished gaze of mobs of tourists.

Near the Colegio San Jeronimo, the Prince of Wales - the heir to the British crown - and his wife unveiled a statue of British playwright William Shakespeare , although perhaps the most special moment came when they stopped at the St. Francis of Assisi Basilica.

The royal pair listened attentively to the narrative about the history of the site and later enjoyed a brief concert by Camerata Romeu, a chamber orchestra comprised only of women, founded and directed by Zenaida Romeu.

Among other activities, during the rest of their tour, the prince and Camilla were scheduled to meet with small businesspeople from Cuba’s budding private sector who have gone into business for themselves thanks to the economic reforms pushed during the 2008-2018 presidency of Raul Castro.

Late in the afternoon, Charles and Camilla will be at the government seat at the Palace of the Revolution to be officially welcomed by Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel, that ceremony to be followed by a gala dinner.

Diaz-Canel, to whom Raul Castro passed the presidency in April 2018, on Monday morning welcomed the royal couple with a Twitter message emphasizing that their visit expresses the “good state” of bilateral relations.

Charles and Camilla, the prince’s second wife, arrived in Havana’s Jose Marti International Airport at 5 pm on Sunday aboard a Royal Air Force aircraft, where they were greeted by the vice minister of foreign affairs of Cuba, Ana Teresita Gonzalez Fraga.

The couple is spending three days in Cuba in a bid to boost bilateral relations after a visit by the UK’s former foreign secretary and current chancellor of the exchequer, Philip Hammond, back in 2016.

On Tuesday, Charles and his wife are scheduled to visit a development zone in the town of Mariel, some 45 kilometers (28 miles) west of Havana, where the prince will attend a ceremony announcing the start of the construction of a UK-funded solar panel park.

On Tuesday evening, the royal couple will attend a gala at Havana’s Gran Teatro Alicia Alonso.

The royal agenda also includes tours of community centers, cultural and agricultural institutions and a visit to a classic British car club in Havana.

The royals arrived in Cuba from Grenada as part of a tour of the Caribbean, which included stops in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, St. Kitts and Nevis.


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