It’s only our third day in Cuba and we’ve already made plans to get out of Havana. We visited the primary school across from Aleida’s house to give the principal a few boxes of pencils, Crayons and coloring pens for the children. They were thankful, uttering Qué bueno as we told them about our impressions of the county.
Vicente drove us to the Viazul bus station where we had reservations to Santa Clara in the province of Villa Clara, the home of Che’s monument. We pulled into the Santa Clara bus station before 8pm where an older gentleman from our casa particular greeted us. A cab ride later, his family, Señora Consuelo and their daughter welcomed us into their home with a couple cold beers. Their place is booked but they’ve already talked to another SeÃ±ora about us staying for the night. This is the case with most of our casas in Cuba–reservations would be given up if other guests arrived first. But our hosts would also go out of their way to make sure that a Plan B was available. We walked to Señora Berta’s house and unpacked for the night. We did however eat dinner back at Señora Consuelo’s house because they had lobsters. As dinner was being prepared we talked to a French couple and drank our Cuba libres, rum and cola. Our lobster and chicken dinner was excellent, an unexpected feast.
The next morning, the town center was buzzing with Cubans going about their own business. We decided to walk to the Plaza de la Revolución Ernesto Guevara where a huge bronze statue of Che stands next to an inscription of a letter he wrote to Fidel Castro when he left Cuba. The plaza has enough spotlights to light a stadium and commemorative events still take place here on a regular basis. The plaza is immaculately manicured with a group of men gardening the lawns and more than five guarding the monument and Che’s mausoleum below where
Che is interred together with thirty-eight of his comrades. The memorial is very tranquil and is indeed a room for contemplation and silence; no cameras are allowed inside.
Santa Clara is also the site of the last battle of the Cuban revolution before Castro entered Havana. Batista sent a train full of military weapons to the other side of the country but on the way to Santa Clara, Che and his troops ambushed the train. It is said that this is the beginning of the triumph of the Revolution. The Monumento a la Toma del Tren Blindado is now also a tourist attraction where four of the train cars and a bulldozer that was used to derail the train are preserved.
Our stay in Santa Clara was brief because it’s Christmas Eve and we have to go to the next town to celebrate. Señora Consuelo arranged for a cab to take us to the next town over, in Caibarien, where we will stay for the next three days. Our driver is keen on pointing out sugar cane factories, universities and tobacco fields as we drive past. Our cab was built in 1957, of French make. Even in its worn condition, we arrived in Caibarien an hour later.