Santa Clara, the capital of Villa Clara is an old town, founded in 1689. The town went by different names initially, but really boomed in the 1920’s, as a crossroads of the country. It will boom even more now that American commercial flights are scheduled to land here.The town is laid out in typical Spanish style with a central plaza,  Parque Vidal. There is a lot to be seen within walking distance of this park.

Santa Clara, Cuba airport tarmac
Santa Clara airport tarmac

Two historical figures shaped the town: Marta Abrende Estevez was an adored benefactor in the early 1900’s who contributed a lot of public buildings. The other figure is Ernesto “Che” Guevara who is legendary throughout the world. He waged the final battle of the revolution in Santa Clara on December 31, 1958.

Che Guevara and Camila Cienfuegos led separate columns that attacked dictator Fulgencio Batista’s garrison here. The final blow came when Batista’s reinforcements came by bullet proof train to Santa Clara. The revolutionaries bulldozed the tracks and derailed the train with the reinforcing troops and ammunition. The troops surrendered quickly and dictator Batista immediately left the country for Dominican Republic with much of his treasury.

Castro stayed in Cuba, but Che Guevara went on to Bolivia, trying rouse a similar revolution there. Different results this time; he was killed there in 1967.

Che Guevara Mausoleum is about a mile west of Parque Vidal.

Che Mausoleum in Santa Clara
Che Mausoleum in Santa Clara

The remains of Che Guevara were discovered in 1997 and were brought back to Cuba. Santa Clara was chosen as his burial site, where the final Cuban battle was fought. A mausoleum and statue honors him.

This is a very impressive monument and shows the respect the country had for him. Even in the US, Che Guevera is legendary and his name is spoken of in reverence or vitriol, nothing in between.

I don’t know if this advice was given seriously or not, but I was told that visitors were allowed in the mausoleum, but not Americans. I prefer the outside of mausoleums anyway, so did not test that statement.

Santa Clara has another claim to fame. The young people here push the boundaries of Cuban censorship. The have a yearly drag show, and a big rock concert.