Santa Clara, birth of the revolution

Wednesday 4 to Friday 6 March

It took Che Guevara to derail an armoured train with more than 350 government troops on board, in Santa Clara that was the last straw for Fulgencio Batista, who fled the country, leaving the Castro brothers triumphant in the Cuban Revolution.

Fidel Castro was forever grateful to the Argentinian guerrilla warrior and placed him in leadership roles in the economic reformation. After a few years as a statesman in Cuba, Che disappeared from Cuban life and emerged in Bolivia, where in 1967 he was finally captured and executed in front of US advisors.

Rather than being ridded of a fly in the ointment, Che Guevara became a martyred hero and when his remains were returned in Cuba thirty years later a massive monument was built to him on the highest point of Santa Clara.

The monument contains a crypt where the bodies of Che and up to thirty supporters who died in the same period are placed. And there is a small museum showing the exploits of Che and other followers of the Castro brothers. There was also an officious soldier who insisted we leave all our bags in a luggage kiosk. Such is the honour that Cubans have for Che that not even your most precious bag containing passports is allowed into the hallowed halls.

The next day we set out to see the sight of the train derailment. As it turned out it was not Che who was responsible for the derailment, rather another column of banderos who broke the rail tracks. However the exhibition made it more than clear that the derailment would not have happened without Che’s planning and support.

A little further down the road is the Estatua Che y Niño. Che again, this time with a baby on his shoulder, a symbol of the next generation.

We then walked to find the Loma del Capiro, a crucial vantage point for Che’s forces. Missing a turn we instead skirted the hill where this monument stands, before climbing for a great view of the city. The monument, featuring Che of course, has two flag poles standing to attention behind it. One carries the red, blue and white Cuban at and the other the red and black 27 July flag of Fidel Castro’s rebels.

We swapped rebels for culture and visited the tobacco shop and the Museum of Decorative Arts which had a small but interesting display of colonial furniture from the 18th and early 19th centuries.

Like magnets we were again drawn to the Parque Vidal for some more people watching as the sun lowered and the air cooled.

Sources: Lonely Planet; Triposa