Feature: Cubans express loyalty to new leadership at May Day rally
HAVANA, May 1 (Xinhua) -- Town squares across Cuba turned into a sea of white, blue and red banners symbolizing the Cuban flag as nearly one million people marked International Workers' Day on Tuesday with massive rallies.
In the capital Havana, hundreds of thousands of workers, as well as students and other segments of society, marched through the iconic Revolution Square, where Cuba's ruling party leader Raul Castro and President Miguel Diaz-Canel presided over the celebrations.
Both leaders remained for the duration of the two-hour parade, waving to the crowds that attended in a show of support for Cuba and its leaders.
It was Castro's first public appearance since leaving the presidency, a show of political continuity in the Caribbean nation as he remains as the First Secretary of the Central Committee of the ruling Communist Party of Cuba (PCC).
Juan Carlos Chirinos, a public-sector employee who participated in the rally with his young daughter Ciara, told Xinhua, "We are here to pledge our support for our new president and to defend our traditions, as well as the legacy of Commandant Fidel Castro and the work done by Raul."
Like Chirinos, numerous parents carried their children on their shoulders, or marched with them by their side, as banners pronounced this year's theme: "Unity, commitment and victory."
"Today is a day for everyone -- workers, students, Cubans that come every year -- because it motivates us to share our labor rights, which many in the world still dream of," Erika Gonzalez, one of the marchers, said.
The young high school student proudly carried the Cuban flag, and together with her classmates chanted slogans that reflected the will of the younger generations to continue the process of modernizing Cuba's socialist system.
"For me it is a joy. I am 66 years old and since the revolution triumphed, I have come to these rallies and I will keep doing so as long as I have the strength and health," said Marta Leyva.
Nancy Perdomo, who works in the private sector, said Cubans know they enjoy rights not available in other countries, such as state-funded education and healthcare.
"We are aware of the social privileges in our country and we have come to manifest our rights and our achievements, and to continue to improve them in the future," said Perdomo.
State worker Eddy Acosta said this year's massive turnout sent a powerful message to the world.
"We continue to believe in the ideas of Fidel, in Raul and the revolution, so that our children can grow up happy and continue to have free healthcare and free education," Acosta said.
Elio Gonzalez, a senior citizen, told Xinhua Diaz-Canel's election on April 19 as Cuba's new president was a "logical and correct decision" to continue along the path started by the leaders of the revolution.
"We have a lot to do together with Diaz-Canel. We must work harder to implement economic and social reforms, and keep the unity of our people," Gonzalez said.
Some agreed that they want to demonstrate support for the new president at a time of renewed U.S.-Cuba tensions under U.S. President Donald Trump.