Camilla’s Havana visit sealed with a kiss
The Duchess of Cornwall’s visit to Havana was sealed with a kiss – from one of Cuba’s national heroes.
The special welcome came from a street performer dressed as essayist and poet Jose Marti, who caught Camilla’s eye during a walkabout in the Cuban capital.
Acting as a living statue – standing stock still in a suit painted bronze – the artist presented the duchess with a rose and kissed her hand.
The duchess also made an impromptu diversion from her official programme to listen to a traditional Cuban band.
As she made her way from one engagement to another in the historic centre of the capital, her attention was caught by the sound of a band playing in a bar.
She stepped into the bar, where she stood entranced for five minutes as the band played a couple of traditional numbers – tapping her toes and, possibly, enjoying the fact that the bar was rather cooler than the streets outside.
“They were brilliant, weren’t they?” said duchess. “I loved them.”
The first stop on her solo tour was the Hogar maternity hospital, an opportunity for Cuba to show off the health care of which it is so proud.
There she met women who are in-patients at the hospital months before their baby is due, in cases where doctors believe that the developing foetus needs close monitoring.
The duchess asked one woman when her baby was due, and was told July. “I was born in July,” the duchess said. “It’s a very good month.”
Another told her she was having twins. “I’ve got twin grandsons,” said the duchess. “It is very nice to have twins – they can look after each other.”
After meeting a group of female entrepreneurs running a bicycle repair business, she was accosted by an Australian tourist, Frank Buckley, 68, who addressed her breezily: “Good to see you! How are you enjoying it?”
He said afterwards: “She said she had not been here long. She looked to me a little bit puffed. But she had no trouble walking up to me and shaking my hand.”
Her last stop was a children’s theatre group, La Colmenita, where she was greeted with a line-up of children in bee costumes.
One managed to get a kiss from the duchess, who swiftly found herself giving a line of children a kiss.
Inside the auditorium of the Teatro de la Orden Tercera, she settled down to watch a girl singing the Beatles’ song Let It Be.
By the second verse the girl’s demure solo had turned into a riotous performance, with little bees dancing energetically on the stage and throughout the auditorium.
By the time of their third number, El Cuarto de Tula, a Cuban song made famous by the Buena Vista Social Club, almost the whole of the audience was up and dancing, with just the royal party and a handful of people around them remaining in their seats.