With hundreds of security agents holding ordinary Cubans behind police lines streets away, actors Tilda Swinton and Vin Diesel, supermodel Gisele Bundchen and Cuban music stars Gente de Zona and Omara Portuondo watched slender models sashay down Prado boulevard in casual summer clothes seemingly inspired by the art deco elegance of pre-revolutionary Cuba.
With the heart of the Cuban capital briefly privatised by an international corporation under the watchful eye of the Cuban state, the premiere of Chanel’s 2016/2017 ‘cruise’ line offered a startling sight in a country officially dedicated to social equality and the rejection of material wealth.
The show was the most extreme manifestation to date of the hot new status Cuba has assumed in the international art and cultural scene since the December 2014 declaration of detente with the United States.
US president Barack Obama visited in March, the Rolling Stones performed in Havana the same week, the first US cruise in nearly four decades docked on Monday, and the latest instalment of the multibillion-dollar Fast And Furious action movie franchise is filming there.
Many Cubans say they are delighted their country is opening itself to the world, offering ordinary people a first-hand look at celebrities and extravagant productions.
But the rampant display of wealth on the streets of Havana is providing fodder for many disenchanted by what they say is Cuba’s failure to deliver on promises of sustainable socialist equality.