It closed in 2009 as the island’s economy recovered and ruler Fidel Castro cracked down on the private sector with tax and health inspectors but reopened a few years ago and has been attracting a steady stream of U.S. and other visitors.
It now displays photos of famous visitors, such as Will Smith, Jack Nicholson, Kevin Spacey, Naomi Campbell, Jodie Foster, Danny Glover, the queen of Spain, and Spanish actor Javier Bardem.
Anti-Castro activist Mauricio Claver-Carone wrote in his blog, Capitol Hill Cubans, on Thursday that the Cuban government had “seized on the trip’s propaganda value” by posting pictures of Beyoncé and Jay-Z in Old Havana on the CubaSí pages.
Will they also meet with dissident musicians or jailed opposition activists, asked Claver-Carone, who is also executive director of the U.S. Cuba Democracy political action committee in Washington.
“Or will they just wine and dine at the Castro regime’s hotels, restaurants, and nightclubs … fulfilling a propaganda dream for Cuba’s brutal dictatorship a la Dennis Rodman,” he added, referring to the retired basketball star’s recent trip to North Korea.
It’s unclear whether their trip to Cuba will impact Beyoncé’s Miami concert at AmericanAirlines Arena on July 10 as part of her Mrs. Carter Show World Tour. Jay-Z will perform Aug. 16 at Sun Life Stadium as part of the Legends of the Summer tour with Justin Timberlake.
The news of their visit came in the same week that famous Cuban blogger Yoani Sánchez made several well-attended appearances in Miami to talk about human-rights abuses and lack of basic freedoms on the Communist-ruled island. Miami is home to hundreds of thousands of Cuban exiles who fled the Castro regime starting in 1959.
Jay-Z at times has mentioned Cuba in his raps. In Otis, with Kanye West, he raps, “Welcome to Havana smoking cubanos with Castro in cabanas.” And in his latest hit with Timberlake, Suit & Tie, he raps this line: “Green card for the Cuban linx.”
Miami Herald staff writer Luisa Yanez contributed to this report.