Santa Clara, its history and highlights
Santa Santa Clara is the host city for the EcoMaterials Conference, and visitors can not only enjoy many sights, they can absorb the spirit and feeling of this special place as they walk the streets, travel in bici-taxis or buy flowers in the park. While its history goes back more than three centuries, its current fame has much to do with its being “the City of Che”. The accompanying article provides an account of its 316 history as well as point out attractions of interest in the entire province.
On July 15, 1689 a group of people from the areas of San Juan de los Remedios celebrated a mass beneath a leafy tarmarind tree, at a place called Loma del Carmen. It is this act that gave way to founding a new town that, on August 16, 1695, received the name of Gloriosa Santa Clara. This endowed the place with special significance, and the tamarind became the first monument, provided by natureand chosen as a symbol by those settlers, who probably could not imagine what it would become with the march of time, the only indication of the place where the city was founded.
Those families from Remedio had begun a journey toward the center of the island in June of that year. Although it has been said that this movement was to seek safe refuge from the attacks of the corsairs and pirates, it has been ascertained that the foundation of the town is based upon the distribution of land, herds and corrals for cattle breeding, a process of land tenancy that gave rise to the formation of a strong landowning oligarchy, among which differences arose because of the desire to populate the dependencies. To this was added the fear of plundering by the pirates and corsairs, a situation that was taken advantage of by the landowners to increase their wealth.
The land chosen lay between the two rivers, the Cubanicay and the Arroyo de la Sabana, later called Bélico. The town prospered and grew rapidly and in 1738 the Main Square was built where today one finds the Central Park Leonico Vidal.
Between 1867 and 1873 important economic and social advances occurred, such as the train connection between Santa Clara and Havana, that accelerated development of the town. Situated in the geographical center of Cuba, the city has always occupied a dominant role in the economy of the country, because of its prosperous sugar industry, as well as its strategic military and political importance.
During the three wars of independence in Cuba, Santa Clara was assaulted and taken by the insurrectional troops. In the last stage it was the scene of the battle that determined the flight of the president, a heroic action led by the commander Ernest Che Guevara, whose troops assaulted an armoured train carrying arms, munitions and food, which was crucial to the army´s plans to detain the advance of the Revolution from the eastern provinces toward the capital of the country.
In various parts of the city struggles took place, the vestiges of which can be appreciated in numerous facades, especially that of the hotel Santa Clara Libre which is situated in the historical and cultural center. The inhabitants view this heroic action with pride and as a recognition and tribute to the decisive role the city played in the triumph of the revolution, in 1989 erected the Plaza of the Revolución, Ernesto Che Guevara. Some years later, in 1997, it became a mausoleum for the remains of the heroic guerrillero and his companions from the Bolivian struggle. It is now a reference point for most visitors to Cuba.
Santa Clara is indeed the City of Che, and the mood of the battle is
still felt. It seems that Che still looks upon the well-traversed
streets of Santa Clara, and the unique times and events become eternal.