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Cuba Libre - Must see

Day Four

The city that became the site of the final battle in the Cuban Revolution in 1958 and brought down the Batista Regime is: Santa Clara. Two guerrilla leaders from Fidel Castros troops, Ernesto Che Guevara and Camilo Cienfuegos attacked this city. The battle was chaotic and by that afternoon the city was captured. Batista fled Cuba less than 12 hours later. This is where my interest with Che and the Cuban Revolution really starts. On the ride to Santa Clara we start to see a few more of the slogans we saw previously on the side of buildings and on walls. Nilda tells us there is a movie about Che called "The Motorcycle Diaries" where Che and his friend, Alberto Granado, ride a motorcycle thru South America. They witness injustices throughout their country which leaves a strong impression on Che and plants the seed that years later develop his revolutionary spirit. Now on my list of "must-see" movies.

From a distance I see the huge statue of Che. We have arrived at the Che memorial. I am impressed and in awe...it is beautiful. The grounds are pristine. The Cuban flag flying high. A huge wall depicting Che in battle carved in stone and, of course, the 22 ft. statue of Che; giant, impressive. I can't stop staring at it while I'm trying put all the information that I have learned into some kind of order. I'm standing by the pedestal that Che is on and looking up I see the sunlight coming thru gray and white clouds which are looming overhead. This casts an intimidating light on my new interest.


In Miami during the briefing, we were told that we are not allowed to take photos of the military or any government buildings. This is quite a serious offense. I follow rules. There is a military officer guarding his post by the Che statue. I ask the guard if I may take photos..one nod of his head ... I take that as a yes. I am in photo-taking heaven when suddenly my beloved is calling me for a photo op....with the guard. The guard is standing like a statue himself with no expression on his face, whatsoever, and make s no attempt to speak. You know who is not following the rules..as per usual...and he... no habla espanol, at all. I see him doing hand signals and what looks like a game of charades. What is he up to now? The guard has not moved, spoken, smiled..nothing ...except another nod of his head. When I walk over with my camera the guard puts his arm on honeys shoulder and shakes his hand.....snap, snap, snap. " Muchas gracias" to the guard, and again, with one nod back from him, I feel electrified. I can't believe what just happened! Okay, dearie...I admit it..I said it couldn't be done. You proved me wrong.


We now make our way inside the mausoleum. Definitely no photos allowed inside and also heavily guarded. It is sacred ground and is the most beautiful memorial I have ever seen. We enter a room with beautiful stone walls and soft lighting. Photos of Che from childhood through his death including his parents, wives, children and comrades hang neat and organized on the walls. Brief historic facts are mounted along with pertinent photos. Some of his personal belongings, including his medical bag and supplies, are also displayed in cases. As we reach the far end of the room, we enter thru another stone entrance into a small room..this is the eternal garden. Peaceful, relaxing, simple...., to me, absolutely beautifully serene. Wood covered walls on three sides. One wall covered in stone portraits of the soldiers and of Che. Each soldiers plaque has a small round light shining on it and a red carnation. Che has a bouquet of white and green flowers and a star-shaped light shining in the upper right hand corner of his plaque. To the right of the memorial wall is the garden...a pebble path with a large stone saucer in the center of it. Fidel Castro lit this flame which continues to burn in memory of Che.. The path continues into darkness. On either side of the path are small tropical gardens, beautifully designed and well tended. There is another gorgeous arrangement in front of the eternal flame. If Cuba is on your bucket list.....this is a must!

Our group of 11 are filled with questions...Nilda is armed and ready. She is very well-informed and does an excellent job clarifying information for us. Her English is well-spoken. The education system in Cuba has high standards..and it shows.. We notice this the more we make our way thru this country. Cubans are well educated, talented and many...bilingual.

We visit a club for the elderly called the Joy of Life. Ages amongst members range from 65 on up. The club has 120 members. They pay dues to contribute to projects they are involved in. Meetings are once per month and activities are planned for those interested in dancing, singing and games. They help each other and some are professionals that offer services to their friends, families and those in need. They are active, independent and happy. Living " La Vida Loca" ... as much as you can in Cuba. They perform "The Dance of the Fans"...which gives us an insite in the different meanings of the way a girl carries and uses her fan. The people in this club were truly a joy to meet.


On the ride back to our hotel, I am processing the day's activities and am so grateful that I am fortunate enough to have this awesome experience. I am living the dream.

The hot-tub at the hotel is calling me. We jump into our bathing suits, order Cuba Libres and Mojitos and get right in. It is not long before we are joined by the rest of the group. After an interesting discussion about our thoughts, feelings and observations..we enjoy a delicious dinner, a concert...and the purchase of yet another wonderful CD...

Posted by Linda Fluckiger 16:00 Archived in Cuba Tagged memorial che santa fidel castro guevara motorcycle cienfuegos flame clara eternal diaries camilo

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