Obama draws a crowd in Cuba

President Obama and family disembarking Air Force One in Cuba on Sunday.
President Obama and family disembarking Air Force One in Cuba on Sunday. Photo Credit: Johanna Jainchill

HAVANA — President Obama touched down in Havana on Sunday, marking the first time a sitting U.S. president has visited the country in 88 years.

Obama and his family — First Lady Michelle Obama and daughters Malia and Sasha — arrived as a steady rain began falling, but that did not deter crowds of Cubans from lining the streets between Jose Marti Airport and the city center as the presidential motorcade brought them into Havana.

Despite the weather, the family embarked on a walking tour of Old Havana under umbrellas, which included a stop at the Havana Cathedral, where  large crowds greeted the president with cheers in heavy rain.

President Obama's motorcade arrived near Plaza de Arms in Old Havana at 6 p.m., where Old Havana's cobblestone streets were covered with puddles. 

As the president approached the plaza, cheers went up from a crowd nearby, which started chanting "USA! USA!"

The Obamas' tour guide was Eusebio Leal, the city historian.

The first family is scheduled to be engaged in both tourism and official business over the next two days in Havana, during which time Obama will meet with Cuban President Raul Castro as well as attend a Major League Baseball exhibition game between the Tampa Bay Rays and the Cuban national team.

Also on the agenda is a meeting with several CEOs who are in Cuba this week in support of the president’s visit, including Arne Sorenson, CEO of Marriott; Brian Chesky, president and founder of Airbnb; and Ken Siegel, general counsel with Starwood.

Starwood and Marriott each revealed this weekend that they were approved by the U.S. Treasury Department to operate hotels in Cuba.

The last time a sitting president came to Cuba was in 1928, when Calvin Coolidge sailed on a battleship.


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