The First Ladies Tour of Havana

Isbel Díaz Torres

Several first ladies on a tour of Havana.

HAVANA TIMES – This past January 28, while the presidents of several countries in the region were negotiating and making decisions at the 2nd Summit of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), their respective first ladies were being offered a tour around Havana.

The Cuban government seems to be making more and more concessions with respect to the lifestyles of the world’s governing elite and no longer conceals how much the hypocritical protocol that characterize international relations appeal to it.

No Cuban revolutionary leader has ever had a first lady, and the media used to be extremely careful in their treatment of the wives of foreign leaders who visited the country, giving them almost no coverage whatsoever.

This sexism-laden gesture is one of the many worrying signals the CELAC Summit has sent out.

The first day of the Summit, the first ladies toured the Immunology Center, Old Havana and Revolution Square. The following day, they visited a special education school for autistic children and the Cuban art wing of the National Fine Arts Museum.

These “sweet”, “charitable” ladies, as the norms of machismo dictate, worry about health, children and the arts (when they’re not accompanying their husbands at a banquet). Hard politics must be left in the hands of men, who know how to handle themselves in the field.

Sexism is so deeply rooted in the prevailing protocol schemes that having women presidents is still an unresolved contradiction for many. What of the sexual orientation of male and female presidents, I wonder.

We weren’t told whether Dilma Rousseff, Cristina Fernandez Kirchner, or the Prime Minister of Jamaica, Portia Simpson Miller, came to the Summit with their respective partners, and whether they joined the committee of “noble and sensitive ladies.”

In fact, the contradiction isn’t as deep as it looks, for the fact these female leaders are now in power doesn’t automatically mean women will be empowered in their respective nations. As we know, this type of “affirmative action”, though positive, isn’t any kind of guarantee.

So that people couldn’t accuse the Summit of being sexist, however, the drafters of the Havana Declaration were smart enough to include the redeeming phrase: “All Heads of State, male and female,….”

Feminist and LGBT activists in Cuba must look closely at how politically correct tropes are being used to mask processes which are in fact extremely sexist and discriminatory.

The Cuban government, with the complicity of the media, makes its inconsistencies more patent before our very eyes. The class perspective has been abandoned by Cuba’s revolutionary “elite”. Could those of us at the bottom reclaim it?

3 thoughts on “The First Ladies Tour of Havana

  • There were exceptions to the Cuban practice of ignoring First Ladies of foreign leaders who came to visit Cuba. When Pierre Trudeau visited Cuba in 1976, Fidel Castro was on hand at the airport to greet the Canadian Prime Minister and his wife, Margaret. Of course, Fidel was nothing if not a typical Cuban male with an eye for a pretty woman. This photo shows Fidel holding up Pierre & Margaret’s son, Alexandre.

    An interesting bit of trivia: not in the photo linked above, but somewhere nearby, was 5 year old Justin Trudeau. He’s now the leader of the Canadian Liberal Party, and might become our Prime Minister in the next election.

  • Your comment is not even a complete sentence, let alone an actual thought.

  • the worst of USAID sponsored propaganda media

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