A vivacious provincial city with a pleasant central park (Vidal), Santa Clara is famous for its Che Guevara connection: in December 1958, he led the attack on a train loaded with Batista’s weapons which marked the end of the dictator’s grip on the country.
Santa Clara was founded on July 15, 1689 – among the original settlers were several families from Remedios who fled from the pirate attacks besieging the town at the time.
Centuries later, as 1958 drew to a close, Santa Clara was the site of the final battle in the Cuban Revolution. The guerrilla attacks were led by Ernesto Che Guevara and Camilo Cienfuegos who derailed a train full of troops and supplies sent by Batista. Santa Clara was captured on December 31, 1958. This victory is considered the decisive moment in the Cuban Revolution. Indeed, Batista fled Cuba less than 12 hours later.
Erected twenty years after his untimely death, the Monumento Ernesto Che Guevara is the city’s main tourist attraction and a pilgrimage site for many. The awe-inspiring mausoleum houses the remains of Che Guevara and sixteen of his fellow combatants killed in 1967 in Bolivia.
Parque Vidal is the geographical and social heart of the city. There is usually some sort of cultural activity here on weekends. A visit to Santa Clara’s tobacco factory is a must for cigar lovers. The laid-back tours here feel more authentic than those in Havana.