Fun time ended when we got shuttled away from Varadero to the town of Cienfuegos, a decent-sized town full of architectural gems and a French influence unique to the island. On our way, however, was a visit to a closed-down sugar mill known as Central Australia, just 60km north of Playa Giron, or Bay of Pigs. Here there is a small museum talking about the events of those April days, 1961, when a CIA-backed group of Cubans (from the states) attempted to overrun the island and overthrow Fidel and his followers. They were fought back in a matter of days, and the museum represents the pride of the area in this defeat. From here, Fidel organized his troops to fight off the imperial militants. I got to translate all of this information from Spanish, which is always joyful, what with me being an American and all. Nevertheless it was an interesting and informative visit.
Another brain-charging visit was en route from Cienfuegos to the colonial town of Trinidad, where we stopped in Santa Clara. Known as a tourist “must see” because of its memorial and museum to Che Guevara, Santa Clara is a small town with a big history. Che led the revolutionary troops here in December, 1958, and when the Batista army fell here, it provided a major push in the triumph of the revolution. In many ways, the fall of Santa Clara was decisive in the course of modern history.
Our first stop was to the mausoleum and museum of Che, all situated under a giant bronze statue (one of the largest in the world) of Ernesto “Che” Guevara, where we could be close to his remains (transferred here from a mass grave in Bolivia) as well as study some of his journals, mate bombilla from his Argentinean homeland and beret (not the famous one with the red star, though, which was a bummer) and admire old photos. Then onto the Tren Blindado, a train that was carrying approx. 400 Batista troops and weapons (carriages of dynamite, guns and bazookas) which Che and his group (about 25 men in total) derailed and captured using a bulldozer to lift the railway and Molotov cocktails to clear the cars. This is what is said to have carried the revolutionary victory here in Santa Clara. It was a nice visit, if not a bit biased, and a chance for us visitors to see Cuban pride beaming from every face we passed.