US pop star Beyonce and rapper husband Jay Z celebrated their fifth wedding anniversary this week in Havana, Cuba, where big crowds greeted them as they strolled hand in hand through the Cuban capital.
They ate at some of the city’s best restaurants, danced to Cuban music, walked through historic Old Havana and posed for pictures with admiring Cubans, who recognized them despite the past half-century of ideological conflict that separates the US and Cuba.
They were the latest big-name US stars, including actors Bill Murray, Sean Penn and James Caan, to visit the Caribbean island in the past few years, but the first to cause such a stir everywhere they went.
Fans in the street below cried out Beyonce’s name as she and Jay Z and their mothers dined at the upstairs restaurant La Guarida.
A crowd of several thousand people swarmed around them in the main square of Old Havana, which prompted their security team to put a halt to their visit to the site.
“I was in the eye of the whirlpool. We had to cut it short because it got so crazy,” said architect Miguel Coyula, who gave the couple a tour of the 16th-century heart of the city.
On Thursday night, they dined at La Fontana, a private restaurant, or paladare, and a favorite of tourists, but police blocked off surrounding roads to prevent onlookers.
Later, they went to El Gato Tuerto, a famous Havana nightclub, then to the Casa de la Musica in the Miramar district where the source said they “danced until dawn” to salsa and other music by the band Havana D’Primera.
On Friday, they toured Cuba’s famous art school, El Instituto Superior de Arte, and government blogger Yohandry Fontana said Beyonce was to have lunch with “important figures of Cuban culture.”
The couple declined to talk to the media to explain the purpose of their visit. The source close to the group said they were invited by the Cuban Ministry of Tourism.
The longstanding US trade embargo against Cuba prevents most Americans from traveling to the island without a license granted by the US government, though US President Barack Obama’s administration has eased restrictions on travel to Cuba for academic, religious or cultural exchanges.
The US Department of State said it had no prior knowledge of the visit. A spokeswoman at the US Interests Section in Havana said she did not know if the two had obtained a license for their trip, which if they did not could see them fined.