What Travel Writers Say

Santa Clara, Che's Historic Moment

© By Mike Keenan
  Che quote For centuries, Cuba has been considered a key geo-political player in the Caribbean, located a mere 90 miles south of the Florida Keys. Subject to an embargo that reverts far back to the days of the Cold War and a missile crisis that threatened a nuclear confrontation between Moscow and Washington, foreign relations appear to be changing ever so slightly with the Obama administration. "President Obama has directed that a series of steps be taken to reach out to the Cuban people to support their desire to enjoy basic human rights and to freely determine their country's future," White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said. Changes in Cuban policy were unveiled before Obama's trip to the Summit of the Americas, a move that precipitated the Organization of American States (OAS) to renege on its punitive ban of Cuba's membership.
     The OAS and its 35-members lifted a 47-year-old suspension of Cuba. Honduran President, Jose Manuel Zelaya Rosales, from the city of San Pedro Sula, reported that the OAS had rectified a serious error. The United States led the push to suspend Cuba from the OAS at the height of the Cold War, breaking diplomatic relations with Cuba in 1961 and establishing an economic embargo the next year. U.S. popularity has seriously waned in Latin America, and it will be interesting to see how Cuba reacts to these two initiatives.
     Cuba rejects any preconditions, with former President, Fidel Castro, saying Cuba had no interest in rejoining the OAS. Of course, everyone wonders what will happen to Cuba once Fidel Castro is finally gone. Brother Raul is now in charge with Fidel supposedly ill; however, I read three strong editorials by Fidel in the Cuban news-magazine, Granma on my flight to Cuba for a tour of most of its provinces.
     One of the most impressive historical sites is Santa Clara, best known as the place where General Batista, the Cuban dictator, surrendered to Che Guevara in 1958. Guerilla troops commanded by Guevara attacked the industrial centre of Santa Clara after a hard, 400-kilometre march begun in the Sierra Maestra Mountains.

Che poised for battle  Ches charge to be a star  Italian press at Che Memorial  Che Memorial  Che Memorial 

     Ernesto "Che" Guevara ranks as one of the most significant revolutionaries of the 20th century, an icon in Cuba and most of the world. Movies and books helped create a cult status for Che, and here, I observed a huge memorial built for a man who was supposedly killed by the CIA in Bolivia. The large stone memorial is simple yet grandiose at the same time, and adjacent to it, live families in relative poverty.
     Guevara was born in Rosario, Argentina on June 14, 1928, and was nicknamed "Che," an Argentinean term of affection. In 1948, studied medicine, and by graduation in 1953, he finished a six-year course in half the normal time as well as an epic journey around South America on a motorbike with his doctor friend, Alberto Granado, chronicled in The Motorcycle Diaries. This informed his politics, instilling a strong sense of Latin American identity and an awareness of the general suffering and social injustice.
     He was in Guatemala in 1954 when the government was overthrown by a U.S. backed military coup. He escaped to Mexico, where he met exiled Fidel Castro in 1955. He joined Castro's small rebel army, the M-26-7 Movement and was among the 82 who set sail for Cuba in the massive yacht, Granma, on November 24, 1956. (The yacht is preserved in Havana in the Museum of the Revolution.) After serving four years as ambassador, he left for Africa and a revolutionary conflict in the Congo. In 1966, he journeyed to Bolivia, fighting as a guerrilla against the Bolivian army. There, on October 8, 1967, he was captured and shot. His memorial is as impressive as was the man.

Che Memorial  Che Memorial  Nearby homes  Tourists  We want you to act like Che sign at the memorial 

     In 1996, Santa Clara's Parque Vidal, the geographical, social and commercial nucleus of Santa Clara, was declared a national monument. The square boasts an attractive core with a paved circular promenade, filled with flora from towering palms to small, scrubbed lawns. Colonial and neocolonial buildings elegantly frame the square. There are many more places worth visiting including the Museo de Artes Decorativas, with reconstructions of colonial aristocratic living conditions, within walking distance of the famous national memorial site, Monumento ala Toma del Tren Blindado where you will discover a de-railed train that marks a dramatic event in the Battle of Santa Clara, a decisive victory in the revolution.

Mike Keenan writes for QMI Agency (Sun Media) Canada's largest newspaper publisher, printing 44 daily newspapers as well as a web portal, Canoe.ca. Besides regular columns for the St. Catharines Standard, Welland Tribune and Niagara Falls Review. Mike has been published in the Globe and Mail, Toronto Star, Buffalo Spree, Stitches, West of the City and Hamilton-Burlington's View Magazine. His work is found in QMI published dailies such as the Toronto Sun, Ottawa Sun, Vancouver Sun, London Free Press, Calgary Sun, Winnipeg Sun and Edmonton Sun.

Photo Credits
Mike Keenan

If you go
Santa Clara, Cuba
as seen on
Che: on youtube
Cuba Tourist Board: http://www.gocuba.ca/en/index.asp
Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Santa_Clara,_Cuba
Wikitravel: http://wikitravel.org/en/Santa_Clara_(Cuba)

What's happening, money, distance, time?
Media Guide: http://www.abyznewslinks.com/
Currency conversion: http://www.xe.com/ucc/
Distance calculator: http://www.indo.com/distance/
Time zone converter: http://www.timezoneconverter.com/

Transportation, visas, health, maps and temperature
Airlines (Wikipedia): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_airlines
Embassies/Consulates (Embassy World): http://www.embassyworld.com/
Health precautions (WHO): http://www.who.int/ith/en/
Google interactive map: http://maps.google.com/
Temperature (Temperature World): http://www.temperatureworld.com/


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