14ymedio Faces of 2018: Lis Cuesta, the ‘First Lady’ Who Doesn’t Speak

First Lady Lis Cuesta has accompanied Miguel Díaz-Canel to various events and on trips. (EFE)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana | 27 December 2018 — The assumption of the presidency by the engineer Miguel Díaz-Canel also meant the return of a first lady, a figure who disappeared from the Cuban political scene from the time of the 1959 Revolution. At 47, Lis Cuesta Peraza has appeared in the headlines of the foreign press from her new public role as the wife of the ruler, although Cuba’s official media hardly mention her.

After graduating from the Holguin Pedagogical Sciences Institute, Cuesta worked at the Book Institute and at the Paradiso Travel Agency, which belongs to the Ministry of Culture. They met when Díaz-Canel was appointed secretary of the Communist Party in the province of Holguin, a position that catapulted him into one of Raúl Castro’s men of confidence.

Cuesta has attended numerous official receptions throughout the year, welcoming Nicolás Maduro and his wife Cilia Flores to the Palace of the Revolution, as well as on the trip to New York she made with the president last October on the occasion of his participation in the General Assembly of the United Nations. In spite of her public prominence, her voice has not yet been heard in the national media, nor has she been seen performing activities on her own.

Last April, a few days after Díaz-Canel’s inauguration as president, an image of the first lady showing a fragment of a tattoo on her back in the shape of a fleur-de-lis was disseminated through social networks. The tattoo generated an immediate comparison between Cuesta’s new style and that of other female figures close to Cuban power, such Raul Castro’s late wife Vilma Espín, who had a much more conservative aesthetic.

Cuesta’s public appearances also contrasts with the secrecy that for decades surrounded Fidel Castro’s private and family life. His wife and the mother of five of his children, Dalia Soto del Valle, was only seen in the last years of the ruler’s life and during his funeral.

For the time being, although she does not speak to the national media or have an agenda of her own, the Cuban first lady is contributing to giving a more modern and human image to her husband’s mandate, perhaps an official strategy to bring the president closer to the population, which did not know him before Raúl Castro appointed him as his successor to the presidency.

See also: 14ymedio Faces of 2018


The 14ymedio team is committed to serious journalism that reflects the reality of deep Cuba. Thank you for joining us on this long road. We invite you to continue supporting us, but this time by becoming a member of 14ymedio. Together we can continue to transform journalism in Cuba.