The band known in Cuba as “Los Rollings” have arrived in Havana.
Following in President Obama’s footsteps, the Rolling Stones touched down ahead of a huge free concert on Friday.
For decades rock music was denigrated on the communist island as “ideological deviation”. On Thursday the British band were officially welcomed by officials from Cuba’s Cultural Ministry and the UK ambassador to Cuba.
Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Ronnie Wood and Charlie Watts stopped on the tarmac to speak to reporters.
“Obviously something has happened in the last few years,” Jagger said, as Richards interjected: “That’s what happens when you ban things”.
Jagger went on: “So, time changes everything and so we are very pleased to be here and I’m sure it’s going to be a great show… Tomorrow, I think it is, God is it really tomorrow? We’d better get ready!”
In contrast to the relatively recent political rapprochement, the musical thaw between Cuba and the West has been developing for some time.
Fidel Castro reportedly regretted the censorship and attended the unveiling of a statue of John Lennon in Havana in 2000.
Even so the concert, which comes at the end of the Stones’ Latin American tour, will be a first for Cubans.
“(It’s great) that the youth interact with music they don’t know, so that youth can interchange, recognize and compare cultures, to incorporate them and also to share their energy, because Cubans, especially young Cubans, have a lot of energy to give,” said one woman in Havana.
Back in the 1960s when Rolling Stones cover band Los Kent tried to play in Cuba, soldiers stopped the gig at gunpoint.
Some 50 years later, today’s military will be helping to provide security for the hundreds of thousands of fans who are expected in Havana.