HAVANA – U.S. president Barack Obama ended his first day in Cuba with a walk and a family dinner in Old Havana, where he received a warm welcome from Cubans who were eager to see him despite the heavy rain that fell in the capital city on Sunday afternoon.
It has not rained so heavily in Havana for weeks but nevertheless many Havanans gathered in the streets near the route through the historic quarter of the city to welcome the first U.S. president to visit the island in nearly 90 years.
Due to bad weather, the meeting ceremony of Obama with U.S. diplomats in Cuba and their families was not held outdoors at the U.S. Embassy as planned but in a lounge at the Melia Habana hotel.
The tour of Old Havana, which Obama had planned to make with his wife Michelle, his two daughters Malia and Sasha and his mother-in-law Marian Robinson, who accompany him on this trip, was also modified.
The walk began at the Plaza de Armas where the Obama family was having a look at the statue of Carlos Manuel de Cespedes, one of the Cuban independence leaders.
The whole tour, which continued to the Palacio de los Capitanes Generales, the building of the former colonial government which now serves as the Museum of the City, was led by Eusebio Leal, the official historian of Havana and architect of the restoration of the area.
Accompanied by heavy rain but protected by their umbrellas, the presidential family came to the Cathedral Square, where Obama paused to greet some of the citizens who were waiting for them in the surrounding buildings.
Inside the cathedral, they were received in private by the Cuban cardinal and archbishop of Havana, Jaime Ortega.
Then they walked through the narrow streets of Old Havana and Centro Havana where hundreds of residents took photos from balconies and doors and welcomed them with applause and cheers.
Many of these Havanans, including children, also enthusiastically greeted the journalists who are covering the president’s visit and let themselves be photographed smiling, as EFE could verify.
To end the day, the presidential family chose to dine privately at the San Cristobal restaurant situated in Centro Habana.