Overlooking the Parque Leoncio
Vidal, the Museo de Artes Decorativas occupies a magnificent colonial house built around
1740. Transformed over the centuries, it was restored in 1820 and again in 1980. The
furniture exhibited here comes from several homes in Santa Clara and is displayed in
chronological order, with a series of rooms presenting various decorative art ensembles
from the 17th century up to the 20th century. In keeping with baroque tradition, the
rooms are very heavily decorated. This custom goes back to the inferiority complex felt
by members of the Cuban aristocracy towards Spain. Perhaps overcompensating, they filled
their rooms and walls to prove their wealth. The museum has some extraordinary items,
including an armoire built entirely without nails and a washbasin from the days when
there was no running water.
The memory of Che
Guevara permeates the town of Santa Clara. Located a little over 2 kilometres (1.25
miles) west of Parque Leoncio Vidal, the Plaza de la Revolución is dedicated to the
famous Argentine guerrilla who fought fiercely alongside Fidel Castro to overthrow
Batista in the late 1950s. A gigantic statue of Che Guevara dominates this plaza, the
site of major political and cultural rallies in Santa Clara. Built in 1988 to
commemorate the Guevara-led Battle of Santa Clara, this 7-metre high bronze (22.9-ft)
sculpture is the work of Cuban artist Delana; the gigantic stone pedestal upon which it
rests is more than 10 metres (32.8 ft) high.
this monument, anyone interested in this almost mythical Argentine revolutionary will
not want to miss the Museo Memorial Nacional Comandante Ernesto Che Guevara. Inaugurated
on December 28, 1988, it traces Che's life from his childhood up to his death, including
his trips through Latin America, his stay in Mexico during which he met an exiled Fidel
Castro, the landing of the Granma on the coast of Cuba, and his revolutionary experience
in the Sierra Maestra. The museum is well documented, and displays a number of Che's
personal items, including his uniforms, hand-written letters as well as many photos.
The door that faces the entrance to the museum
leads to the Mausoleo del Che, where lie the remains of Che and the 13 Cubans who were
killed with him in Bolivia. An eternal flame shines in this solemn and touching shrine.
Following Che Guevara's footsteps in Santa Clara
also requires a visit to the Monumento del Descarrilamiento, Acción y Toma del Tren
Blindado, which recounts the decisive battle led by Che Guevara against an armoured
train carrying Batista's forces on December 28, 1958. The reinforcements aboard this
train were sent by Batista to help his army finish off the rebels in the centre of the
country. After leaving Havana, the train arrived in Santa Clara on December 24. Che
arrived on December 28 and settled in at the University of Santa Clara, where he made
clandestine requests for equipment with which he could derail the train. He managed to
obtain a bulldozer and, during the night, he breached the railway line leading to
Havana. The ensuing attack from atop a hill prompted the train's crew members to back up
and attempt to return to Havana... and the rest is history. Four of the train's 22 cars
can be viewed at the monument.
The Museo de Artes Decorativas
also offers classical music concerts. The museum is recognized as Santa Clara's most
important centre for classical music.
The Casa de la
Cultura Juan Marineyo is Santa Clara's community cultural centre. At the entrance, a
small art gallery exhibits works by contemporary artists from the region. This beautiful
house, built in 1927, is the site of many cultural activities. Shows and concerts are
held here regularly.
Shopping is a rare diversion in
this region of the country, but you can still head to Calle Independencia, open only to
pedestrians starting at Calle Maceo. Most of the shops are intended for local residents,
including Santa Clara's biggest bookshop.
Where on earth
Santa Clara is a pretty village set amid green hills.
The capital of the province of Villa Clara; it was founded in 1689 as San Juan de los Remedios