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Published: June 19th 2017
June 19, 2017
Picking up where we left off...
Last night, we enjoyed our last supper in Cuba at a paladar in Cienfuegos. The host has plans to expand in order to accommodate cruise ship passengers in the future. It was a fitting near farewell to our new friends Ralph and Jorge as we enjoyed a tasty meal and fellowship.
We should that before supper, we enjoyed cocktails on the rooftop of the Union Hotel, dating from 1869. There, we discussed the issues of the day and broke the Facebook embargo with Jorge. He thought it would be easy for us to find him and was shocked to see how many people of the same name exist in the Chicago area alone. We enjoyed a great view of Cienfuegos, including the energy infrastructure--a Soviet nuclear power plant that never was (it never opened), and refineries of Venezuelan crude, as well as power plants.
We returned late, nearly 11 p.m. to find our hotel had already locked the gate, though the front doors were wide open. Someone let us in and we packed and crashed, knowing today we would be saying goodbye to Cuba.
This morning it was time to load up the van and head for Santa Clara. The drive took us through several rural villages and even to a factory town, Batey, which grew up around a sugar mill. The more rural we got, the fewer cars and the more horse drawn carts we saw. It seemed like the main form of transportation in rural areas. We also saw people plowing fields with an ox drawn plow and people selling fully feathered chickens along the side of the road. In one community, each house had a hand pump for water in front. Several had run pipes from the pump to fill a rooftop water tank, and a few had attached mechanical engines to the pump using a chain driven apparatus to run the pump electrically.
Finally we arrived in Santa Clara, where we visited the monument, museum, and tomb of Che Guevera. The monument and museum were very impressive and he is clearly a huge hero in the eyes of the Cuban people in the revolution they see as a continuing movement. Given the large amount of advertising in support of the revolution this was not surprising. You'd have to just see this to understand. There are many sides to every story..
We then visited the main square of Santa Clara and were the only tourists in at least a 2 mile range. The square was an Internet hotspot. In Cuba, people have to buy internet access cards for 1 hour of use at a time or pay monthly and the usage is metered in minutes. There are no free wifi zones and their hotspots were very popular places. A lot of family conversations were going on via Skype and there were a lot of happy faces.
We stopped for lunch and lastly, on the way to the airport, saw a monument to a train derailment that led to Batista's decision to leave Cuba. A group of revolutionaries knew that a trainful of government troops and supplies were bound for Havana and 18 of them were able to stop hundreds of advancing troops. This was a turning point in the 1959 revolution.
From there, it was off to Santa Clara airport where we arrived early enough to browse several shops and spend our very last CUCs. Tonight, we are back at the Miami Hilton, ready for a good night's rest, a late morning, and our return to Chicago tomorrow night.
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