One of the largest and liveliest cities in Cuba, the provincial capital of SANTA CLARA, landlocked near the centre of Villa Clara province, has long been a place of pilgrimage for Che Guevara worshippers, with two large monuments and a museum commemorating the man, his life and his part in the rebel victory. Home to a large student population and the country’s third-biggest university, and with only two tourist hotels in the centre, there’s a strong sense here that the city is getting on with its own business despite receiving coachloads of visitors, and Santa Clara remains an idiosyncratically Cuban place. Its social life revolves around the vibrant central square, Parque Vidal, just a block away from the main shopping street, part-pedestrianized Independencia. The plaza is definitely one of Santa Clara’s highlights, though there are several other places worth visiting. On the square itself, the Museo de Artes Decorativas offers accurate reconstructions of colonial aristocratic living conditions, while within walking distance is one of two famous national Che Guevara memorial sites, the Monumento a la Toma del Tren Blindado. A derailed train here marks one of the most dramatic events of the Battle of Santa Clara, a decisive event in the revolutionary war of the late 1950s, while on the other side of town the Complejo Monumental Ernesto Che Guevara is a eulogy to the man himself and is much more substantial.

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