In Cuba, President Obama Is Welcomed By President Raúl Castro | WBEZ
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In Cuba, President Obama Is Welcomed By President Raúl Castro

President Obama kicked off his official visit to Cuba on Monday by laying a wreath at the foot of a memorial to Cuban independence hero and poet José Martí.

It's worth pausing on that for a minute. The statue of Martí is also at the center of La Plaza de la Revolución, a square as important and revered in Cuba as Moscow's Red Square or Beijing's Tiananmen Square. On the other side, in the distance, the buildings for the ministries of defense and interior are framed with outline portraits of Ernesto "Che" Guevara and Camilo Cienfuegos, two of the country's bearded revolutionary heroes.

Fidel Castro used to give lengthy speeches at the square to huge crowds and often denounced U.S. imperialism.

Today, Obama stood solemnly before the statue of Martí as a Cuban military band played "The Star-Spangled Banner."

A few minutes later, and for the first time in almost 90 years, a Cuban president welcomed an American president.

Raúl Castro shook Obama's hand at the Palace of the Revolution in Havana, making history and bringing a symbolic end to one of the last rivalries of the Cold War.

The two presidents are expected to give public statements later this afternoon. In the evening, Obama will attend a state dinner at the Palace of the Revolution. We'll update this post with more throughout the day.

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