Beyonce and Jay-Z caused a big stir in Havana as they marked their fifth wedding anniversary Thursday.
R&B’s power couple was mobbed by dozens of well-wishers at the renowned restaurant La Guarida on Wednesday night, and police had to step in to keep the crowds at bay. La Guarida staffers showed The Associated Press pictures of the two dining on typical Cuban creole favorites – fish, chicken, black beans and rice – accompanied by their mothers. The privately run restaurant is famous as the filming location for the hit movie “Strawberry and Chocolate,” and is a mainstay on Havana’s tourist circuit.
Waitress Silvia Fernandez said Beyonce toured the eatery and looked at photos of past celebrity clients: Jack Nicholson, Jodie Foster, Danny Glover, Will Smith, James Belushi and more. Their bodyguards’ presence outside set the gritty, bustling neighborhood of Center Havana abuzz, and a crowd gathered downstairs shouting Beyonce’s name until she went to a balcony and waved. Police arrived and made sure she was able to exit without incident.
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“She was beautiful, without a drop of makeup, very natural,” Fernandez said. “What happened with the people was incredible.”
On Thursday the couple toured colonial Old Havana wearing dark glasses and surrounded by bodyguards and excited fans. Beyonce posed for pictures with local schoolchildren while Jay-Z puffed on a Cuban cigar, and then they popped into another restaurant that boasts a rooftop terrace with a sweeping view of the harbor.
Beyonce and Jay-Z declined to speak to reporters, and it was not clear why they traveled to Cuba. State-run website CubaSi called it a tourist trip.
Washington’s 51-year embargo makes it illegal for U.S. citizens to visit Cuba for mere tourism, although tens of thousands of Americans travel here each year on academic, religious, journalistic or cultural exchange licenses. In the past, artists who were challenged by the government have said they visited for cultural purposes.
The artists’ publicists did not immediately respond to emailed requests for comment, and the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control, which is responsible for licensing approved travel to Cuba, said it does not comment on individual cases.
Beyonce, the multiple Grammy winner who performed at this year’s Super Bowl halftime show and President Obama’s inauguration, and Jay-Z, the rapper and entertainment mogul who recently went into the sports-agent business, were married April 4, 2008, in New York.