El Corazon de Cuba
Educational Program


Santa Clara

  Click to enlargeAs you descend down the north slope of the mountains the green become less intense, the agriculture changes and the temperature warms.  
  Primary school, Manicaragua, CubaPrimary school, Manicaragua, CubaAlmost randomly, this was the morning we selected to find a rural school. We stopped at a one-room school, with one teacher and less than a half dozen students.  Along with learning something about how the school works and education in Cuba we left some gifts, including books in Spanish, pencils, paper, an inflatable globe and some other supplies. Virtually all Cubans go to school and the literacy, rate at 95%, is the envy of Latin America.  
  Tobacco leaf, Manicaragua, CubaTobacco leaf and drying barn, Manicaragua, CubaTobacco leaf hung on sled, Manicaragua, CubaA dryer warmer climate in Cuba means tobacco growing. When the tobacco leaf is mature it is picked bunch an draped over poles. The poles are laid across sleds, which are hauled to the barn by ox. In the barn the poles are hung on scaffolding that reach floor to ceiling. There the leaf dries slow, and hopefully remains soft and pliable.  
  Main street, Manicaragua, CubaSandwich shop, Manicaragua, CubaManicaragua is a seemingly prosperous town in the middle of an agricultural region. It is hard to know the whole picker. There were stores and people out on the streets. One street has been configured as a pedestrian mall. Most building seem to be in good repair, and there were a variety of vehicles on the roads, though they were still out numbered by pedestrians. But it is hard to find a restaurant here. At least in 2004, Manicaragua and Trinidad had about the same population, but they are not equal in the eatery census.  
  Pedestrian street, Manicaragua, Cuba building, Manicaragua, Cuba Sandwich shop, Manicaragua, Cuba Apartment building, Manicaragua, Cuba  
  Cigar factory, Manicaragua, CubaCigar factory, Manicaragua, CubaCigar factory, Manicaragua, CubaAnd, cigars mean cigar factories. Cigar factories are widely scattered in Cuba; we visited one in Manicaragua. Cigars are made in three steps, first the inside is rolled, which i then pressed, and then the outside finishing leaves are put on. The work looks very boring, but the workers seemed relaxed and good natured.  A good cigar roller is said to be one of the best paid workers in Cuba.  To make the job interesting and pass the time, readers come in and read the newspaper and books. Cigar workers also are said to be some of the best informed and "most well read" in Cuba.  

Sugar cane, Cuba  vegetable garden, Cuba Yucca, casava, CubaThe elevation and climate keep changing. A little lower, a little warmer and a little drier and the crops change. In this section sugar cane (left) is the dominate cash crop. There was a large field of yucca (cassava) (right), which is packed with carbohydrates. The salad garden (far right) has a sign on the fence that reads, "Siempre con Fidel", "always with Fidel".

  Autopista, Santa Clara, CubaSign for Santa Clara, featuring Che GuavaraNear Santa Clara we passed the autopista again. Again the road was almost empty, and people stood along the edge hoping for a lift.

The sign making the town features an Argentinean who spent less than a week here in December 1958. The irony of that is in comparison to Marta Abreu, a woman born in Santa Clara, and renowned for her decades of charity work, civic involvement, anti-colonialism and philanthropy in Santa Clara.

  Glorieta gazebo, Parque Leoncio Vidal, Santa Clara, CubaGlorieta gazebo, Parque Leoncio Vidal, Santa Clara, CubaParque Leoncio Vidal, former known as Plaza Mayor and Plaza Central, takes up an entire city block. The park honors Leoncio Vidal, the hero who died fighting against Spanish forces, in this very location.

In the center if the park is the Glorieta gazebo in the center of the park, erected in 1911. Nearby is “el niño de la bota” (The Boy with the Leaking Boot), one of the symbols of the city. There are dozens of variations of this statue around the world. Its origins are unclear.

  Marta Abreu de Estevez statue, Parque Leoncio Vidal, Santa ClaraMarta Abreu de Estevez statue, Parque Leoncio Vidal, Santa ClaraMarta Abreu de Estevez statue, Parque Leoncio Vidal, Santa ClaraMarta Abreu de Estevez statue, Parque Leoncio Vidal, Santa ClaraAt the south end of the park is a statue of the beloved patron, Marta Abreu de Estevez (1845-1909). The inscriptions uses the words "august", and "sublime incarnation of charity and patriotism." The relief depict her work with civic progress, charity and patriotism. Some of the projects her philanthropy underwrote are the theater, old peoples' s home, home for poor and homeless, school for black children, weather station and its instruments, firemen's quarters, city power plant, and the train station, among others. She support the independence movement, against Spanish colonialism, to the tune of what would be over a million US dollars, in today's value. There is a time-capsule in the base of the stature, to be opened by future generations.  
  Cultural House, Santa Clara, Cuba Emisora Radial CMHW, Santa Clara, Cuba building of unknown purpose, Parque Leoncio Vidal, Santa Clara building of unknown purpose (light at night), Parque Leoncio Vidal, Santa Clara BANDEC, Parque Leoncio Vidal, Santa Clara  
  BANDEC, Parque Leoncio Vidal, Santa ClaraThe eclectic assembly of buildings (it is hard to label all of the architectural styles) on the west side of the plaza are; Cultural House, Hotel Central (formerly a city hall, and under renovation so not photographed), Emisora Radial CMHW, an ornate building of unknown purpose (shown day and night), the often maligned international-style, Hotel Santa Clara Libre (green high-rise box, built before the Revolution, and formerly the Santa Clara Hilton) and colonial-style BANDEC (a bank at the corner)  
  Hotel Santa Clara Libre, Parque Leoncio Vidal, Santa ClaraHigh school, Parque Leoncio Vidal, Santa ClaraOn the south side of the park is a cubist, neo-classic design high school (left).

Continuing around, another pleasing colonial-era building is at the southeast corner (right).

  Former City Hal, now the José Martí Library, Santa Clara, CubaFormer City Hal, now the José Martí Library, Santa Clara, CubaFormer City Hal, now the José Martí Library, Santa Clara, Cuba Former City Hal, now the José Martí Library, Santa Clara, Cuba

Probably the most elegant building facing the park, day or night, takes up much of the east side. It is truer classical architecture style. It is also referred to as a former City Hall, but it is now serves as the José Martí Library.

  Museum of Decorative Arts, Santa Clara, CubaTeatro La Caridad, Santa Clara, CubaAt the northeast corner of the park is the Museum of Decorative Arts, which houses one of the biggest collections of colonial decorative arts in the country.

At the west end of the block is the Teatro La Caridad (Theater of Charity, built by Marta Abreu).

  Teatro La Caridad, Santa Clara, CubaOn one night when we were in Santa Clara, we lucked into the chance to see the Habana Ballet Company perform at the Teatro La Caridad.  It, along with the theaters in Matanzas and Cienfuego, are considered to be the great historic theaters in Cuba.

At four dollars, just to see the inside of the theater was worth the price of admission.  The ballet was a bonus.

The ballet was called "La Habana Valdes". The story line was about a woman forced to marry one man but who was in love with another. She tries to kill her husband, but the knife is taken away and is later used to kill the man she loves.  Her lover dies slowly and very passionately. Far more captivating than the story line was the choreography and music.  The music which was drawn from every Cuban style and then some. Beside salsa, son, calypso, Afro-Cuban and rumba, there was flamenco, classical and jazz, depending upon the nature of the scene. A particularly memorable dominos gambling scene, which symbolized the struggle between the two men, was highly rhythmic and all created by the dancers as the betting and playing went from side to side and became increasingly faster and more intense.  The fight scene between the two male rivals was a foot stomping duo flamenco style. There is a lot of humor and very colorful costumes like in a Brazilian Carnival-like scene. Another tremendous scene featured a street sweeper dancing with her broom and 4 other men with canes, all stomping their feet in beautiful rhythms. The bullfight scene reminded one  of our group members of   "Carmen". We all left very pleased.

  Monument to founding families, Santa Clara, Cuba Monument to founding families, Santa Clara, Cuba Iglesia del Carmen, Santa Clara, CubaThe Iglesia del Carmen marks the location where the founders of Ville Clara (initial name of Santa Clara) celebrated their first mass, on the 15 of July, 1689. Adjacent to the church is a circular monument with an elevated wall, that wraps around a tree. On the wall are inscribed the names of all of the founding families of the city.  
  Captain Roberto Rodríguez ("El Vaquerito") memorial in the garden of Iglesia del Carmen, Santa Clara, CubaCaptain Roberto Rodríguez (known as "El Vaquerito") is honor with a memorial in the garden of Iglesia del Carmen. He joined the revolution in the Sierra Maestra. He is described as a short, strong, smart and dedicated fighter. Because of these attributes, he was part of a "suicide squad", in the army of Che Guevara. As they cross Cuba, Rodriguez's squad fought a number of successful battles. During the battle for Santa Clara, on December 30, 1958, Guevara dispatched his "suicide squad", then under the leadership 18-year old Captain Rodriguez, to capture a government position on a hill, using hand grenades. Though Rodriguez perished in the battle, his bravery became legendary. The government troops eventually abandon their position, and Rodriguez's troops carried the day.  
  IOOF, Independent Order of Odd Fellows, Santa Clara, Cuba Centro Combatientes, Santa Clara, Cuba Restaurante Santa Rosalia, Santa Clara, Cuba  
  Here is a sampling of building in the neighborhood (above left to right): IOOF Lodge (Independent Order of Odd Fellows), Centro Combatientes (1924), Restaurante Santa Rosalia, a house with an ornate exterior, and a store with an arte-deco look.  
  Street, old Santa Clara, Villa Clara, Cuba Street, old Santa Clara, Villa Clara, Cuba Painting house, Santa Clara, CubaBuild color doesn't rise to the pitch that it is in Trinidad, but there are a variety of pink, green, blue and yellow buildings in older Santa Clara.

One building was being painted as I passed (right), and when I retuned a half-hour later the job was finished.

  Fitness class, Santa Clara, CubaWalking down the street at about 6pm, the music pouring through the window grating, out into the street. Behind them, the crowd of bodies doing their aerobics class provide a good illustration of the role of private enterprise in today's Cuba - since Raul assumed the presidency. There were government gyms before this, but people complained that there was little equipment and it was old. The hours were 8am-noon and 1pm-5pm, when most people were working. The private gyms are open until midnight, have a variety of new equipment, and offer a wider variety of programs.  Of course they are also more crowded.  

Che Guavera Monument, Santa Clara, CubaChe Guavera Monument, Santa Clara, CubaChe Guavera Monument, Santa Clara, CubaChe Guavera Monument, Santa Clara, CubaChe Guavera Monument, Santa Clara, CubaThe is some irony, that on the edge of Santa Clara is a plaza dedicated primarily to Che Guevara - a man who loathed private enterprise or at least capitalism.  The complex for Che houses a memorial, monument and museum.  The monuments is fairly typical of a war monument.  It focuses on a pedestal with a statue of Che in fatigues and carrying an assault rifle.

  Click to enlargeChe Guavera Monument, Santa Clara, CubaThe memorial is much more significant.  It is subterranean, like the caves of the bases in the Sierra Maestra.  Besides Che, it is a memorial to the other members of the core group that spent the early days of the revolution in the Sierra Maestra with Fidel, Cienfuego and Che.  In keeping with the revolutions philosophy of a classless society, all of the comrades are interned in the same manner.  The only thing that distinguishes Che's locations is an extra point of light in the shape of a star.  The memorial is dignified, somber, understated and moving.  No photography is allowed.  
  Across the hall from the memorial is a museum that is primarily dedicated to Che's adult life as a revolutionary and to the soldiers in Cuba. The museum devotes a lot of space to his life as a guerrilla fighter, and to the deaths of he and his comrades in Bolivia. It shows a picture of Che disguised as an aging Peruvian diplomat, ready to depart for Bolivia. There is a short video that shows him speaking in Cuba, and has Fidel, clearly moved, reading Che’s last letter from Bolivia. There are details of his childhood, his youth traveling the continent, his medical studies, and his years of work in Cuba. There is even an early 1950s photo of him setting off on a touring bike for a pedaling spin around Argentina, with an extra tire slung over his shoulder. Imagine that, Che the bicyclist! Information on other aspects of Che's life can be found at the Museum of the Revolution in Havana.  

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