One day in Santa Clara

| 5 min read

One day in Santa Clara

After partying the night away at Las Parrandas de Remedios, we weren’t able to get out of bed until 1PM. Despite the two bottles of rum and innumerous beers, we felt surprisingly well. We even felt like taking in a dose of culture. Santa Clara is known as the place where Cuban Revolutionaries won a famous battle against dictator Batista in 1959. The victory was achieved thanks to Che Guevara’s help, so a giant memorial has been erected in his honor on the aptly named Che Guevara Square. The Che Guevara Mausoleum houses his remains as well as those of 29 other combatants killed during Che Guevara’s attempt to spur an armed uprising in Bolivia in 1967. There is also a monument displaying the long farewell letter he sent to Fidel Castro.

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I hadn’t finished reading the entire letter when a heavy downpour set in. As quickly as our legs allowed, we ran to a pizza place we had seen earlier, looking for shelter. We thought we might as well order another peso pizza for 10 cup, which turned out to be a huge disappointment after the delicious pizza from the night before.

Santa Clara

We greeted the Finnish girl Lina goodbye as she would continue her travel west, and set off with the British Danni to explore the center of Santa Clara. So far we had only seen the outskirts of Santa Clara, which didn’t look that nice. As we got closer to the center, the buildings got prettier and the atmosphere more pleasant, but I don’t consider Santa Clara a highlight amongst Cuban cities. In fact, I was surprised to spot so many tourists here. If it wasn’t for Remedios, Santa Clara might not even have been on our itinerary.

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We crossed Parque Vidal, a central square surrounded by eclectic neo-classical and colonial-style buildings that house bars, restaurants and hotels. We walked on to the Calle Independencia; a nice but small pedestrian street that is nice for walking around aimlessly. One of the shops that drew my attention was the old pharmacy with shelves full of beautiful old porcelain apothecary jars.

Santa Clara

We walked on until the monument of the Parque del ‘tren blindado’ (the Armored Train Park-Museum). In 1958, Batista had sent an armored train loaded with guns and hundreds of soldiers to Santa Clara to reinforce his troops. Using a bulldozer, 17 revolutionaries under the command of Che Guevara stopped the train and took over the guns, which marked the end of Batista’s dictatorship.

Santa Clara

On my map I had spotted the monument of ‘Che con niño’ a little further up the street. Given that we seemed to be on a ‘national monument hunt’, we could as well walk on and check out one more. The life-sized monument of Che holding a baby turned out to be particularly interesting because it was jammed with small details. The fabric of his uniform incorporates miniature sculptures depicting junctures in his life. His belt buckle even pays tribute to the 38 men killed with Che Guevara in Bolivia. I really preferred this intimate sculpture over the big impersonal mausoleum we had seen earlier.

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On our way back to the center, we passed along the Revolution Café-Museo, a living room turned into a museum café. It is a project of the Spanish artist Gil de Vena who had come to Cuba to study the effects of the US blockade on the civilian population. The walls are covered with original photos of Che Guevara. Although it is okay to walk in and look around without paying or consuming, the appealing cocktails and free Wi-Fi between 9 and 11 PM are good reasons to hang around a bit longer.

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As recommended by our host from our casa particular, we went to the restaurant SaboreArte for dinner. Many locals had gathered there, which is usually a good sign. The food was decent and came in large portions. They had the ajiaco soup that we had been looking for, some kind of tasty meat soup and a local specialty. And last but not least, the mojitos were delicious! The total bill amounted to 10 CUC for three people.

We returned to the casa particular early, which no one minded after the night-long partying from the day before.

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