Our final day in Santa Clara
Today was our final day in Santa Clara for our tour. I awoke at the crack of 8:30 for breakfast at the Los Caneyes hotel, and by 10:00 we embarked on our guided tour of the city.
Santa Clara is known as the city of Che Guevara. It is home to his monument and the site of his famous seizure of a train carrying arms to the revolution’s opposition. The first stop on our tour was the monument. We were instructed to remain silent while viewing the exhibits, so we saved our breath and enjoyed the government-provided air conditioning. The museum portion contained many objects belonging to Che, including uniforms, caps, and pistols, among other possessions like hypodermic needles. My favorite exhibit was a picture of Che taking a comically huge bite from a sandwich. We then visited the train site which was unfortunately closed for refurbishing. Luckily we could still view the trains, which were being painted, and the bulldozer responsible for their being repainted.
We were then set free in the town square for lunch and free time in our chaperone groups. Thus far, our meals were paid in CUCs, Cuban Convertible pesos for tourists, the Cadillac of currencies (in that they make you pay much more than needed). CUCs are roughly equal to USD. For lunch today, we stumbled into a Cuban-style Italian restaurant that ran on CUPs, Cuban Pesos, which are approximately 1/25th the value of CUCs. For a bottled water and the finest of Italian dishes, pork and Mexican rice, we paid 65 CUPs, or about $3. Needless to say, our stomachs were as full as our wallets.
We wandered far from the square down bustling streets alive with the rumble of water trucks and classic cars and the trot of horse trolleys, observing Cuba Verdad. We then reunited with our bus and returned to the hotel . Before dinner, our manager Tiffany brought in two energetic salsa instructors to teach us how to dance. Everyone had lots of fun learning the steps, and I had just as much fun sitting in the corner with my arms crossed.
After a delicious hotel dinner and treating myself to two bowls of chocolate ice cream (after a hard day of salsa dancing), a small group of us learned to sing and play “Guantanamera” by the swimming pool in the Cuban night air. Shortly after, we witnessed an impromptu fashion show on the deck of the pool with music, models, multiple wardrobe changes and all. Inspired, we strutted to our rooms for the night, clearing the air of the day’s activities and the mosquitoes circulating our beds.
~ Daniel Watson