Santa Clara

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Images of Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara abound throughout Cuba, but I was taken aback by the sheer scale of the Conjunto Escultórico Comandante Ernesto Che Guevara memorial dedicated to the revolutionary doctor at the Plaza de la Revolución in Santa Clara. It’s staggering and an impressive sight. At the heart of the giant memorial is an enormous statue of the guerilla that sits atop a tall plinth.

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Underneath the memorial is an interesting museum dedicated to Che’s life, featuring biographical information, intimate photographs of him, as well as some of his belongings. There’s also a poignant mausoleum where Che, his mother and 38 of his comrades from Bolivia are buried. Their remains are interred in a cave with a jungle setting and each comrade has his own dedicated memorial. At the far end of the cave, an eternal flame marking their sacrifice – and lit by Fidel Castro – burns.

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Santa Clara is also the site of one of the most decisive battles of the Cuban revolution of the 1950s. The Tren Blindado Monument (above) in the city is a series of train carriages and concrete statues of explosions that’s dedicated to the train derailment masterminded by Che Guevara in December 1958, which allowed him to conquer the city. Inside the train carriages are artefacts from the derailment. Situated next to the railway line where the battle took place, it’s a clever and effective way of commemorating the event as it imaginatively captures how it unfolded.

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