For the first time in many years since the triumph of the Revolution, Cuba has a First Lady.
Lis Cuesta Peraza, wife of President Miguel Díaz-Canel Bermúdez, was honored with this title and has caused some controversy, something natural in a country whose ruling caste has always been very closed.
Lis Cuesta’s Biography
A native of the province of Holguín, she holds a bachelor’s and master’s degree in Pedagogy from the Institute of Pedagogical Sciences of that city.
Her professional career includes working in the Communication Department of her native province, as well as directing its Provincial Book and Literature Center, which organizes the traditional Book Fairs every year in Cuba.
The couple moved to Havana shortly after Díaz-Canel’s appointment as Minister of Higher Education in 2009.
Lis Cuesta’s children
Rumors suggest that Cuban President Miguel Díaz-Canel began an affair with Lis Cuesta Peraza in 2003, under dubious circumstances.
What is known is that, when they met, both were already married with children.
He was the first secretary of the Communist Party in the province of Holguín and was married to Marta Villanueva, a marriage from which two children were born.
Cuesta Peraza’s husband held a high position in the military forces in eastern Cuba. The couple also had two children.
We may never know clearly how this love story between Díaz-Canel and Lis Cuesta began.
What does Lis Cuesta do?
Lis Cuesta Peraza is currently director of events at Cuba’s Ministry of Culture.
She is no stranger to working in the Cuban tourism industry, having previously been manager of Academic Services at the state-owned Paradiso, a travel agency linked to Cuba’s Ministry of Culture.
Public projection as first lady of Cuba
This graduate in Pedagogy, university professor and official of the cultural tourist agency Paradiso has been considered a very reserved woman in the past, but in recent years she has been in the focus of controversy for her public projection.
It was from 2018, as her husband’s public profile in Cuban politics increased, that images, references and news about Lis Cuesta began to make their way, rather quickly, into public opinion.
Cuesta’s existence was then a discovery for many Cubans, a surprise in a country that had not known first ladies for several generations.
Fidel Castro kept a thick veil over his wife and her family environment. Raúl Castro’s wife was Vilma Espín who, on her own merits and not because she was Castro’s wife, occupied a relevant position in the Cuban hierarchy.
Both Fidel and his brother Raúl Castro believed that the title of First Lady was something that could be considered bourgeois or capitalist and, therefore, repudiated.
That is why Lis Cuesta’s active role as First Lady is striking, even more so under the watchful eye of Raúl Castro and his family, for many the real power behind the throne.
Perhaps this is a strategy to give an air of “modernity” or “normality” to the Cuban nomenklatura.
Most people met Lis Cuesta in March 2019, when she and Díaz-Canel showed up in Santa Clara to vote in the National Assembly elections.
Public appearances and official trips
Cuesta Peraza has made notable public appearances with her husband on her trips to North Korea, Bolivia and Japan, where she was received by the first lady of that country.
Cuesta has been present at several high-level events, such as the welcoming ceremony at the Palace of the Revolution for Nicolás Maduro and his wife Cilia Flores, the trip to New York she made with the president on the occasion of Díaz-Canel’s participation in the United Nations General Assembly. He also attended the tribute ceremony during the visit of the King and Queen of Spain to Cuba.
Before the visit of the Spanish monarchs to the island cuesta was also present as hostess to Camilla of Cornwall (current Queen Consort of the United Kingdom), wife of the then Prince of Wales and current King of the United Kingdom, Charles III.
At that time in 2019, the prince and his wife were the first members of the Windsor clan to officially set foot on Cuban soil.
Cuesta was also photographed during the visit to Cuba of Pedro Sánchez, President of the Government of Spain, and his wife Begoña Gómez, in November 2018.
Lis Cuesta’s tattoo
Those who enjoy better memory will remember that in 2018 the information went viral that Lis Cuesta sports a tattoo on her back, more specifically on her left shoulder blade.
This is an unusual fact within Cuba’s conservative power structure.
How old is Lis Cuesta?
Miguel Díaz Canel’s wife was born on March 28, 1971. Therefore, she is 51 years old (due in 2022).
Cuesta is eleven years younger than her husband, a Cuban born in Villa Clara in April 1960.
Memes about Lis Cuesta
The first lady, Lis Cuesta, often becomes the center of attention for negative reasons: it is common for her to be mocked in thousands of memes circulating on social media platforms.
It is not a permanent phenomenon, but is reflected in “peaks” of intensity that coincide with moments of significant public appearances of the first lady.
Visit of the King and Queen of Spain
When the King and Queen of Spain visited Cuba, in November 2019, the Cuban first lady, Lis Cuesta, was photographed with a peculiar outfit that unleashed a storm of memes and jokes on social networks, such as Facebook and Twitter.
People were particularly amused by what they considered an old-fashioned fashion sense, as well as a questionable suitability of the first lady’s clothes to Havana’s hot and humid climate.
Her attire was compared on social networks to a kimono or the clothing of a Buddhist monk. It was an extra-long dress with prints in blue tones, designed by the Cuban design house Dador.
The heart in scrubbing sponge mode (“estropajo”)
Lis Cuesta, wife of Miguel Díaz-Canel, once again tested the patience of Cubans with a publication on her Twitter account, in May 2022, in which she assured to suffer, like everyone else, the “overwhelming blackouts”, but to be willing to celebrate with music, despite everything.
The first lady’s tweet was described as insensitive and generated a wave of annoyance that gave rise to very critical but also very funny memes.
The dictator of my heart
Controversy seems to always haunt Lis Cuesta, especially in her Twitter appearances.
In April 2022, she sparked outrage after referring to her husband as “dictator of my heart” in a public tweet.
Many people found it a very offensive phrase and it quickly started trending on the social media platform.
That tweet also generated many memes, like these.
Visit to Algeria
In November 2022, an official Cuban delegation headed by Miguel Díaz-Canel began an international tour of several countries: Algeria, Turkey, China and Russia.
The Cuban First Lady accompanied her husband on this trip.
On the second day of their stay in Algeria, the Cuban delegation visited the Great Mosque of Algiers, one of the largest in the world.
Following Muslim customs, Mrs. Diaz-Canel wore a veil as she entered the mosque, an image that provoked dozens of humorous photos and memes, some of which you can see here.