Santa Clara Cuba: Revolutionary + LGBT Capital

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Santa Clara Cuba is the fifth largest city in the country, and yet most tourists only see a fraction of it.

Many stop in for a tour of the Che monument, museum and mausoleum and head on their way.

But the capital of the Villa Clara province is perfect for travelers looking to get off the beaten track in Cuba.

While it’s a small city with less than 250,000 people, it’s quite different from other cities in Cuba.

It was founded in 1689. Like many others, including Trinidad, it was once known for cattle ranching, then sugar cane.

It’s most famous for it’s role Cuba’s independence from the Spaniards and the revolution.

But that’s not the end of the story…

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    It appears to be a quaint little town but it’s one of the most progressive. It is home to the second largest university in Cuba.

    It’s the most LGBTQ+ friendly city by far and has well known drag queen shows.

    I first visited Santa Clara on this incredible Cuba tour, which changed how I viewed the country. It wasn’t long in the city but I knew I would return.

    Santa Clara isn’t just about the revolution. It is a hub for all kinds of dance and music from ballet to heavy metal.

    It’s worth spending time in Santa Clara to get a sense of this liberal city.

     

    History of Santa Clara

    Ernesto Che Guevara with a child in his arms and in the background the image of Fidel Castro, Santa Clara Cuba

    Santa Clara has always been in the literal middle of conflict.

    It was a stronghold in the 10 Year War (Guerra de los Diez Anos) in Cuba’s battle against the Spanish.

    But it’s most famous for the Battle of Santa Clara.

    In this final battle, Cuban heroes Ernesto Che Guevara and Camilo Cienfuegos attacked the city from two sides.

    While Cienfuegos was distracting an army just outside the city in Battle of Yaguajay, Che’s revolutionaries detailed a train of government troops and supplies.

    Che and Cienfuegos then met together for the final battle and captured the city. This caused the end of the dictatorship of Fulgencio Batista.

    Today many people still call this the “Che city” and most tourists come here for revolutionary history or a pilgrimage to El Che.

    Interestingly, Cienfuegos was originally supposed to be the first leader in post-revolution Cuba.

    However, he took a flight where the plane mysteriously disappeared and he was never seen again. Fidel Castro then became the leader of Cuba.

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