Che Guevara Cultural Memorial
The largest monument to Che Guevara is found in the town of Santa Clara. History lovers take note—the Che Guevara Cultural Memorial is a fascinating and impressive memorial to Che, and one that’s worth spending an hour or two exploring.
Santa Clara played an important part in Che’s fight for the Revolution. On December 28, 1958 Che’s army attacked the town and interrupted a train that was carrying weapons and supplies to Batista’s troops in the east. A two-day battle ensued, and Che’s army eventually captured the city. At the time, Santa Clara was known as el último reducto de la tiranía batistiana (the last fortress of Batista’s tyranny). Within a day of this victory, Batista fled Cuba.
The Che Guevara Cultural Memorial is a larger-than-life memorial to Che. The Monumento de Che looms over the Plaza de la Revolución in Santa Clara. It includes a 22-foot-tall (7-m) bronze statue of Che wearing military fatigues and holding a rifle. Che’s farewell letter to Fidel (written in 1965) is inscribed on a large concrete block, and there’s a large bas-relief depiction of significant Revolutionary moments nearby.
Beneath the Monumento de Che is the Museo de Che. You enter the museum on the north side of the complex, and may have to wait in line for a few minutes, as only a limited number of visitors are allowed inside the museum at one time. This museum is professional and well presented. Che’s history is on display all the way from childhood to death. Among other things, you’ll see the guns he used and the medical equipment he practiced with. There are numerous photos from his time in the Sierra Maestra, as well as an account of his capture of Santa Clara from Batista’s forces in 1958.
An adjacent mausoleum is home to Che’s remains, which were discovered in Bolivia and placed here in 1997. It’s a beautiful place, with granite walls and soft lighting. It also has empty space for the 37 guerillas that died during Che’s last battle. Che’s remains are marked with a star and illuminated by a beam of light. Do note that photos are not allowed in either the museum or the mausoleum.
Across the street from the museum is the “Garden of Tombs.” This outdoor area contains rows of marble tombs—each of the 220 tombs symbolize one of Che’s soldiers. The tombs face an eternal flame and are surrounding by attractive gardens.