Few dates in the life of a young person are more fondly remembered than a fifteenth birthday party. The white dress, the waltz, the flowers, the photos, the nerves, the company of one's parents and the first love… and of course the toast.
And if this event takes place at an extraordinary place, the emotions are even greater. And this is what 22 teenagers at the Solidarity with Panama special education school experienced last night, as they celebrated their 15th birthdays with a very special guest: Cuban President Raúl Castro Ruz.
Some in wheelchairs, took to the dance floor with their partners. Dressed impeccably in white, with happiness etched in their faces, the names of each one and that of their parents was announced, plus their favorite songs, perfume, and food, their zodiac sign, and the name of their loves, kept secret until the moment.
Whatever the students' physical or intellectual disability, like all young Cubans at this age, these two girls and 20 boys enjoyed their quinceañeros.
From the edge of the dance floor, Raúl made their happiness his own; it was apparent as he congratulated each one following their dance.
"I'm very moved," he confessed, "When I see things like this, I admire Fidel even more. In 1989, a very difficult year for our country, he founded this school, when we didn't know how we were going to survive. For schools like this, we are wiling to give our all.
"I think that that it is one of our most beautiful works, one of the loveliest and most just of the Revolution," he said before parents, relatives, teachers, staff, and guests that came together to cheer 171 children with physical-motor limitations from around the country, who are being educated there with lots of love.
After taking pictures with the honorees, Raúl conversed with them, including one who spoke of his great grandmother who had been a friend of Vilma's. He carried the smallest, asked others about their studies, and promised to return soon.
The institution's director Esther La O Ochoa, thanked Raúl for being there, to the children's delight, for giving continuity to the work of Comandante Fidel, who on December 31, 1989, a night when Cuban families are celebrating, was there, founding the school.
"Since then, we have loved it and cared for it," she said, as someone who for years has dedicated her efforts to making Fidel's dream of the school a reality - the Solidarity with Panama, where the Revolution is made of love.