A visit to Santa Clara is a must for two main reasons:
Conjunto Escultórico: Memorial al Comandante Che Guevara:
Surrounded by 14 palm trees symbolizing the date of birth of the revolutionary Che Guevara, June 14th, La Plaza as it is known to the locals in Santa Clara is a majestic tribute to this national and international hero.
From within the mausoleum itself, a 16 m tower/pedestal emerges crowned by a 6.80 m bronze statue of el Che Guevara wearing his guerrillero uniform and holding a M-2 rifle as he looks south to Escambray and South America. The part of the tower/pedestal we see from the outside is 10 m high but underneath, you will find the missing 6 m close to the chamber that comprises the tomb that holds since 1997 the final remains of el Che and that of his fellow guerrilleros that battled along his side in Bolivia.
As you approach the pedestal on which el Che stands, you will be able to better appreciate the mural next to it which is a testimony set on stone of the battle that took place to free Santa Clara. It is worth noting the figure of Fidel Castro, Camilo Cienfuegos and el Che Guevara as commanders of the Battle of Santa Clara.
As you walk past the pedestal, you will find a set of stairs that will take you to the lower section/entrance to the museum and the resting place of el Che. Photographs are not allowed within both rooms. On your right you will find the entrance to the museum which showcases letters, photos, and other personal belongings of el Che from his childhood up to his battles throughout the world; when you exit this exhibit, you can then enter the guided resting place in which el Che Guevara has been laid to rest and on its sides, you will find the niche for each of his fellow guerrilleros.
We were told that there is a special ceremony where local students are chosen to place a red carnation on each of the niches of these guerrilleros. The resting place (chamber) has been built and decorated to resemble the forest/jungle of Bolivia where they perished. There's an eternal flame that is said to be initially lit by Fidel as well as a fountain and small stream to provide ambiance to this resting place.
These are also shorter pedestals that are meant to be permanent floral arrangements for el Che. On the tallest one (6 m high), you can read the farewell letter that el Che Guevara wrote to Fidel Castro; on the other 2 m high pedestals, you can read the following:
Sitio Museo: Acción contra el Tren Blindado:
On December 15, 1958, el Che Guevara with his rebel forces started an attack against the forces of then dictator Fulgencio Batista. A monument erected at the entrance to this site reads as follows:
On December 28th, 1958, a small force of 18 men from the Columna 8 "Ciro Redondo" under the lead of Captain Ramón Pardo Guerra Guile and under the orders of el Comandante Che Guevara, derailed, attacked and took possession of an armored train comprised of 2 locomotives and 18 wagons carrying 408 men amongst officials and soldiers as well as a powerful cargo that included cannons, bazookas, rocket launchers, machine guns of different calibers and rifles.
Within a 1.5 hr combat, the soldiers of the Rebel Forces who only carried rifles and molotovs, were able to make their enemy surrender thus reaching a brilliant military victory. - Glory to the Heroes.
But the showstopper for this site and which is held in high esteem, is the Caterpillar tractor used to move the rail tracks that caused the derailment of the precious cargo for Batista's forces.
... to conclude this visit, we remember el Che's ...