Welcome to our travel blog. We are Tabitha and Nic. In 2011 we 'retired' in our early 40s and set off to travel the world. We spent our first year in South America and have been lucky enough to make two trips to Antarctica.

Our blog is a record of our travels, thoughts and experiences. It is not a guide book, but we do include some tips and information, so we hope that you may find it useful if you are planning to visit somewhere we have been. Or you may just find it interesting as a bit of armchair travel.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Che Guevara in Santa Clara

Students and money makers aside, Santa Clara's main claim to fame is the connection to Che Guevara, so we figured we had to fit in a few of the Che sights.
The link to Che comes about because it was here that in December 1958 he masterminded a defeat of General Fulgencio Batista's military and the taking of Santa Clara for Fidel Castro's revolution.

His plan to derail the armoured train was successful and Che's men were able to capture the soldiers, weapons and ammunition before they could mount a defence. The taking of Santa Clara was hailed as a tipping point in the success of the revolution and cemented Che as a hero.
The site of the derailment is now a memorial to the event, displaying the old train carriages and the tractor used to derail them. A modern looking sculpture represents the train tracks that were displaced.
Somewhat smaller is the nearby statue, in which Che is carrying a child. What makes it interesting are all the little details; his belt buckle has a group of tiny people on it, there is a small motorbike, and revolutionaries climb over him.
But the main monument is the mausoleum. Che died in Bolivia, executed on 9 October 1967 for his participation in an attempted uprising there. Thirty years later, Fidel Castro had the bodies of Che, and some of the revolutionaries who died with him, brought to Cuba for burial there. Later, the bodies of others of his comrades were brought over too and there are now thirty of them in the mausoleum.
The place is huge, with a statue that is over twenty feet high standing atop a plinth about three times that. The monument as a whole celebrates different aspects of his life, but clearly the overriding aspect is of his part in the Cuban revolution. The scale of the site and structure is clearly intended to reflect the high esteem that Fidel Castro held Che in.
The burial tomb itself is a rather more understated affair. No one is allowed to take any bags in with them, no photographs are permitted and we were watched while we were in there; Che's final resting place is clearly well looked after and protected.

'We want them to be like Che'
Free to get in to - it would have seemed very wrong had they been charging I think - it is built within the main monument and feels very serene. With dry stone walls and a rolling slatted wooden ceiling, it resembles a mountain hideaway rather than a tomb, with the eternal flame adding an unexpected cosy warmth. The thirty people interred all have a small plaque marking them, and the one for Che is identical to the rest, no larger or more ornate than the others. As it should be for a staunch believer in communism.

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