Sierra Maestra and Santa Clara
I don’t know what happened exactly in my mind, but one day, all of a sudden, I decided to plan a trip to Cuba. I started being very interested in the Cuban Revolution and prepared my trip so as to visit all the places related to that. I spent a month in Cuba so, indeed, I had enough time to visit many places! I wrote about two places that played an important role in that historical event: Sierra Maestra and Santa Clara.
To make a long story short, the Sierra Maestra is the mountain range where, from 1956, the guerillas lead by Fidel Castro hid from the army of Batista, the dictator that they wanted to get rid of. I took an excursion to the Comandancia de la Plata, which is the place from which everything was organized, the place from where the radio rebelde transmitted. On a side note, that place never was found by the enemy air force, so it really was well hidden!
The excursion leaves from a village called Santo Domingo. It is located one hour away by car from the city of Bayamo. Some people choose to spend the night before in Santo Domingo, but I stayed in Bayamo, which was a good choice because I met a couple who had a scorpion and a big spider in their room (in the Santo Domingo hotel!) As for the casa particular I stayed at, it was one of the best casa’s of my trip (Casa Reyes). I got along very well with the family and their house was nice.
To get back to the excursion, you book and pay for it once you are in Santo Domingo, and the price is higher if you are on your own. Luckily, there was a family who invited me to join them so I could have the lowest price! In total, we were a group of around ten people. The guide walked quite fast, which we did not appreciate because we wanted to enjoy the hike, of course. So we walked quite far behind him and the other people, we did not even see them.
I loved walking in that forest, the atmosphere was very special. I was so delighted to follow the guerillas’ steps. On the way, there is a museum, a check point, and Fidel’s shack, with his bed and fridge. In total, the excursion lasted around 4 hours, however when it ended I felt like it had only lasted half an hour. I’m really not in a good physical condition so I was afraid it would be too difficult for me but it wasn’t. I was also helped by the weather which was not too hot that day. I liked the excursion very much; I will definitely take it again when I return to Cuba.
Santa Clara is famous for being Che Guevara’s city. Che Guevara was the commander of the troop that took possession of this city during the Revolution, in December 1958. The Battle of Santa Clara is well-known because it played a key role in the triumph of the Revolution. Che Guevara and his soldiers derailed a train full of ammunition that was on its way to the Eastern cities of the island, so as to supply Batista’s army. I visited that train, which has been turned into a museum. It is a very interesting museum and it is also particularly fascinating to be face to face with this famous train.
At the opposite side of the city, there is the Che Guevara Memorial. The first thing you notice when you get there is the giant statue of Che Guevara. Around the statue, there are stone engravings of the revolutionaries and other commemorative elements, such as an engraving of his farewell letter to Fidel Castro.
In the museum, you can see all sorts of photos and objects related mainly to Che Guevara of course, like his famous uniform, his weapons, and his books. The other thing to see in this place is the mausoleum, where he and the other guerilla’s who died with him in Bolivia are buried. It’s a very moving and special place. It’s a bit embarrassing when you think that Che Guevara wouldn’t have appreciated this big complex that honors him, he was a very humble person who did not like honors. But I guess that what Cuba does best is celebrating its heroes!
There is also that café called Café-Museo Revolucion which I loved. In this café, each centimeter of the walls is covered by photos or documents related to the Revolution and Cuba’s history. There are photos of Fidel Castro, Che Guevara, Camilo Cienfuegos, letters, and articles. The waiters know a lot about all the objects and documents presented. It is very enriching to chat with them.
I really liked these two places that I visited. If you are keen on Cuban history or just curious, they are unavoidable! You can learn a lot, but it’s always interesting to read books and articles as a complement, in order to deal with all this in depth.
Generally speaking, Cuba is an excellent choice for history lovers and adventurers. Of course, I could also say that it’s perfect for beach lovers but in my opinion it’s a pity that people talk so much about the Cuban beaches; they are beautiful, and sometimes breathtaking, but we clearly cannot say that days spent at the beach are as enriching as history is!