Santa Clara, Caribbean
Today we were saying goodbye to Trinidad. A whole day in the bus, back to Havana.
I say back to Havana, but I’ve not actually been to Havana yet!
We left at 8.30am and our first stop was a pottery place just outside Trinidad. The main guy has been doing pottery for over 60 years and he gave us a demonstration. He was producing some many things right in front of us – a small pot with a lid (the lid he created separately and it fitted perfectly), a sombrero and a vase. All so cool. They go into the mountains to collect soil, then after removing the bits they don’t want, create their own clay. I was surprised at how cheap their products were. $5-10 for large pots. They were so cool. So I got a few. Hoping I can get them home unbroken.
Trinidad sits in the main sugarcane growing area. This is why Trinidad was once very wealthy – it was the centre of sugarcane production. 16km outside of Trinidad is an estate which was purchased in 1795 by Pedro Iznaga, who became one of the wealthiest men in Cuba through slave trafficking.
The 44m-high tower next to the hacienda was used to watch the slaves, and the bell in front of the house served to summon them. We stopped at the house. There was a small market leading up the driveway and so much hassle. This is the first time people have been chasing after us trying to sell things – tablecloths, aprons, things woven out of sugarcane leaves…. It wasn’t that exciting.
A few more hours in the bus and we arrived at Santa Clara.
This town had an important role in the 1958 Cuban Revolution. I didn’t know much about this before I arrived, but we were played many documentaries during the long bus journeys. Prior to 1958, Cuba was run by a man called Batista. The revolution was largely led by Fidel Castro, who generated an uprising against the Batista regime. He met Che Guevara whilst and Che joined in the uprising. Che derailed a train in Santa Clara which was carrying firearms towards Havana, for Batista. This event is considered to be the point at which the Revolution was won, as the following day Batista fled Havana for the Dominican Republic and Fidel was then in charge of the country.
Our first stop was at the site of the train derailment. Five carriages have been preserved at the sides of the tracks. It wasn’t too exciting. Next stop, 2km away, the memorial to Che Guevara. Following the successful revolution, Che turned his attention to other countries which required liberating. Including Bolivia. It was in Bolivia that he was found by the CIA and killed, along with all the people that he was with. Their remains were hidden in Bolivia. But more recently, they were found and brought back to Santa Clara. And here, there is a memorial to them, with their remains built into the walls of the memorial. The memorial also housed various bits and pieces – a pen once used by Che, a pipe that he smoked. His old school reports. Etc etc.
Once we left the memorial, we stopped just outside Santa Clara at a tacky tourist resort hotel for lunch. I didn’t eat, as the vegan options were non existent.