Published: April 10th 2011April 6th 2011
Wednesday 8th April
We spent most of the previous day travelling across the island from Santiago De Cuba
. It’s a long bus ride but I’ve been buoyed by the news that my Santaria
prayer for a football ticket has been answered and Pat
are rather pleased that, 10 days into our tour, their luggage has finally caught up with them!
Our hotel, the Los Caneyes
is a large tourist hotel. At first we seem to have hit new levels of comfort. For the first time since leaving Havana
we have something to attach our shower attachment to. Cat
is slightly embarrassed to find herself in a suite with two bathrooms and with a bottle of champagne waiting for her in the fridge while we all speculate on what sort of welcome will be waiting for her by the time we get to the end of the tour.
Unfortunately the hotel doesn’t cope very well with the large number of tourists. Although they have enough rooms and beds the buffet system at mealtimes doesn’t work. The hotel provides plenty of food but soon run out of plates, cups and glasses.
There are a large number of tourists in Santa Clara
but there is just one tourist attraction – Che
. This is the site of one of the final, decisive battles of the Revolution and the site of his mausoleum, his memorial and his museum. I’m not sure what Che
would think about the large number of Western tourists following his trail. I’m sure it won’t be long before Disney try to cash in and turn him into a cartoon hero!
Our first stop is the El Tren Blinado
, a memorial to one of the last actions of the Revolution when Che and a small number of followers captured an armoured train, the city of Santa Clara
and effectively split the country in two. The train is still there together with a bulldozer, a crowbar, an empty bottle of Canada Dry and various other artefacts connected to the attack.
The main site contains Che’s remains, his memorial and a museum. There are strict rules stopping us taking cameras or even the smallest bag into the mausoleum or the museum. Che is buried along with 38 of his “comrades”. It’s not clear to me who the 38 other people were – if they were Cubans, Bolivians or some mix. I think some of us were worried that the mausoleum would be overdone but we find that the whole place seems to have been done with a lot of dignity.
Coming out of the mausoleum we go into the museum which contains photographs and artefacts from various stages of Che’s life.
The mausoleum and museum are actually built into the monument which dominates the square. The main feature is a statue of Che in typical revolutionary pose but there are also reliefs showing a map of Cuba and the key battles he fought, scenes from different stages of his life and his last letter before he left Cuba.
And, tucked away in the corner of the site is, of course, a souvenir shop.