Posted by: Caroline | August 30, 2012

Santa Clara

Getting from Sancti Spiritus to our next stop–the hip university town of Santa Clara–was a truly Cuban experience. We got to the bus station an hour early–as instructed by our casa owner and as informed by our own experience at every other bus station. Alex went to the window to buy tickets at a low, dark window, where–in true Wonderland style–there were no tickets to be had. The seller said we needed to go to the adjacent waiting area, separated from us by a locked gate. Oops, can’t open that one. Then she asked us to get to the waiting room by exiting our waiting area and entering the other one from the outside.  Would have worked, too, if not for that pesky security guard demanding to see our tickets. When I tried to explain that we weren’t able to buy tickets, he just pointed us back to the ticketless counter. Eventually the “ticket seller” talked the security guard into letting us through to the other waiting area, which was playing a really loud, awful American movie about dancing and overcoming obstacles. We asked if we could buy tickets, but we were told to wait. So we waited. And waited. And waited. The bus, which was supposed to arrive at 4, still wasn’t there at 4:30. To complete the frustration, several Cuban buses headed to Santa Clara (that we weren’t allowed to ride on, of course) had come through by this point. Finally, some slightly official-looking person led us back to the ticket seller, then back outside, then back to the ticket seller where we could finally purchase tickets. The bus arrived at a fashionably late 4:45, and we were treated to a pathetically cheesy Spanish/English pastor marriage counseling video as the in-route entertainment.

Santa Clara is effortlessly cool, with a huge student population and strong ties to Che. The place is steeped in revolutionary tradition and was home to the last Cuban Revolution battle. Che’s face is everywhere.

This is where Che is buried.

Politically charged murals are ubiquitous here.

To round out the Che pilgrimage, tourists head to the Armored Train Museum. The Batista regime controlled Santa Clara at the time and was sending a train stocked with essential supplies down its tracks. Except Che got word of its arrival and used a combination of  grenades, molotov cocktails, a bulldozer, and a little over 300 men to bring down a massive and important train as well as nearly 4000 government soldiers.

The museum is well-designed, using old cars from the train to display facts, photos, and artifacts (as well as less relevant things, like a rotating art gallery in the last car).

What a surprise to see this hint of home on one of the armored train’s wheels!

The main square of Santa Clara has phenomenal people-watching…

… and goat-watching. Remember how every Latin American parque central has its own totally wacky pastime, like the Jeep races in Esteli, Nicaragua? Yeah, Santa Clara’s version of that is goat-drawn carts that carry sometimes amused, sometimes bemused children around the square. We assume it’s some form of babysitting, because most of the kids seem to fit the latter category.


  1. […] gotten a bit overwhelming at this point. Between the revolutionary museum in Trinidad and the armored train museum and Che pilgrimage site in Santa Clara, I had kind of had my […]

  2. […] you’ve gotta admit: the Chinese children have more sophisticated park diversions than the Cuban children […]

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