Che Guevara's Tomb

Trip Start Dec 07, 2011
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Cuba  , Villa Clara,
Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Back home in the UK Che Guevara has a place in the hearts of the fashion conscious, or at least those with socialist ideals. Here in Cuba he is revered as their saviour. Yes you can buy the t-shirts as you can in the UK but these are mainly for the tourists. So far as the Cubans are concerned you tend to find Che Guevara in a very different light with statues and monuments all over the island. But none are more important it would seem than the mausoleum that was erected in Santa Clara for the dead of the revolution. Now Che Guevara did not die In Cuba. Having flourished throughout the revolution alongside the Castro brothers he went on to spread his ideal of a political system and fought in other war zones throughout the world eventually being caught and executed in Bolivia. There is an excellent article on Wikipedia about him.

But first, the journey from Holguin. Save me please. We are on a 9 hour coach trip from Holguin to Santa Clara and its as I feared Cuban mexican pop videos all the way. Every single interminable cliched, ham acted, trumpet blaring, accordian squeeling minute of the journey. Nine hours is a lot of minutes (540 mins - I have time on my hands). In Mexico we had badly dubbed films. That was easy to deal with; I grew up watching wonderful, poorly dubbed Japanese TV programs, The Water Margin and Monkey. But Mexican music videos......Yuk! I think the Beatles can rest in peace their throne is safe - not too sure about Plastic Bertrand though (see youtube).

Having survived the music videos my arrival in Santa Clara was followed by a dash to the loos which were guarded by two ladies. One generously proportioned lady sat outside the mens with a rather stern 'don't mess with me you had better tip well' look on her face. I should explain here that all public loos in Cuba (and Mexico) have guardians that exchange money for two slips of bog roll; its a national sport, who can terrorise the foreigner the most! Anyway standing outside the loo with my legs crossed I was not about to argue. I opted for a mid range small coin as she was not permitting passage into the loo without a glint of metallic silver but by the way she dealt with the previous unfortunate I wimped out and increased the coin size which actually looked bigger then it really ease ( steroid coin of Cuban currency). With a dead pan expression she turned the coin over in her sauseage size fingers and grunted. For a moment it looked like she was about to test the integrity of the coin on her glinting gold teeth but maybe she realised that gold was softer then the coin for she just shifted one generous butt cheek on her disproportionately small stool, raised her eyebrows in acceptance and threw her thumb over her shoulder in the general direction of the loo, waiting for the next unfortunate full bladder. Timing is everything and the pressure in my bladder was telling me time was up. There is something very satisfying about releasing pressure on a full bladder, so long as my winkle is hanging over some white ceramics, of course! 

The tomb for the war dead and Che Guevara is very well done and is very respectful of those that died, men and women, not only as soldiers but also as humans – a very moving place indeed. It could certainly motivate the socialist in you. As for me, well, I'm definitely interested in the human aspect but the politics well having voted for Maggie when I was a teenager...well I think I have been emotionally scarred since. 

We also visited the re-enactment of the derailing of the armoured train (Che again). The site was quite artificial but what was of more interest was two things:

First, while we walked round the train we watched school children being taught how to march. They repeatedly stamped up and down the side of the track under the watchful eye of a soldier. We asked the soldier the purpose of the marching and he she said it was for a parade the following day. What parade we could not ascertain. It is also interesting that in Mexico the schoolchildren also have also have marching practice on a regular basis; for what purpose I do not know!

The second interesting moment near the train was the statue of Che Guevara (lifesize) about 50 yards up the road. I have attached a couple of photos. This statue had little additional models all over his body from his hair to his boots depicting aspects of his life. There was no guide as to how many models there were. So you can imagine my skills as a chiropractor (observation) were keenly employed; the challenge was on. If I can’t put to work my training as an observer of the human body then what did I do with all that time at college (apart from have fun).

Well, that's it for Santa Clara. We have another big bus journey tomorrow to Veradero where we plan to escape from the real Cuba and relax in a posh hotel for five days drinking and eating the hotel dry. It's an 'All Inclusive' so it will be interesting to see what is available to the package holiday tourist compared to the general public across Cuba.

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