A Travellerspoint blog

Reasons to Visit

Santa Clara, Cuba

Their are two reasons to visit Santa Clara, Cuba:
1. To see where the the Revolution was won.
Where the Revolucion Was Won

Where the Revolucion Was Won


These are the original rail cars that housed the defeated enemy troops and the bulldozer that razed the tracks with sculptures to signify the ruined rails.
The Bulldozer That Won the Revolucion

The Bulldozer That Won the Revolucion


These are bullet holes in the wall of a hotel that they have decided to never patch.
Reminder of the Revolution

Reminder of the Revolution


2. To honor Che
Che

Che


Can't you just picture throngs of people standing here for hours listening to one of Fidel's long speeches.
Che Memorial Plaza

Che Memorial Plaza


At the Che Museum

At the Che Museum


Burial Grounds for Revolutionaries

Burial Grounds for Revolutionaries


The mausoleum is quite a spectacular site. The museum for Che is excellent with guides to discuss the history. One of the guides was leading a group in Spanish. When he saw me, he asked the group of Europeans if they minded if he changed to English so that I would understand. Each time he came to a point that included the US involvement in a rather negative light, he would bow to me and say "Excuse me for telling this."
On the Grounds of the Che Memorial

On the Grounds of the Che Memorial


In addition to honoring the revolution and revolutionaries, we on the Road Scholar tour had our usual interaction with a local organization. Here, we met with a senior citizens center who danced and played games with us and then joined us for lunch.
Welcom Abuelos

Welcom Abuelos


Abuelo Chemist

Abuelo Chemist

Abuela

Abuela

Bucket Drummer

Bucket Drummer

Adios Abuelos

Adios Abuelos


We were also entertained by a troubadour who, if I remember correctly, is a professional who receives his salary from the government.
Troubador

Troubador


I spent so much time at the memorial that the rest of the group was waiting for me in the bus. I asked to remain in town on my own and have them pick me up when the bus returned to bring others back to town for dinner.
This was when I saw the sites as I walked the streets.
Santa Clara Street Scene

Santa Clara Street Scene


Monument to Who

Monument to Who

Boy with Leaking Boot

Boy with Leaking Boot

Beatle Square

Beatle Square


I saw this artistic grafitti throughout the town - did not see it in any other town. I could not find anyone who could translate, but did understand it was humorous or satirical about local life.
Throughout Santa Clara

Throughout Santa Clara


This, on the other hand, is not humorous.
Truth or Death

Truth or Death


This will take you back! It is now a government store without nearly as much as Woolworths stocked.
Rememberance of 1950

Rememberance of 1950


The library is in the palatial home of a Cuban who endowed a theater and many other public facilities.
Santa Clara Biblioteque

Santa Clara Biblioteque


Check0ut Counter in Biblioteque

Check0ut Counter in Biblioteque


I sat on the square and watched the traffic. Nothing but foot traffic is allowed on one edge of the plaza. Every single person on a bicycle or pedi-cab dismounted and walked that block. I guess if your father or grandfather was a revolutionary you don't need to practice anarchy now.
No Lock Needed

No Lock Needed


I am thinking this man might have not appropriately dismounted or should not have a pedicab on this corner.
I Don't Know the Offense

I Don't Know the Offense


Within five blocks of my house in Denver, I see more vagrants on the streets than I saw the complete width of Cuba.
Only Vagrants I Saw

Only Vagrants I Saw


Ice cream is almost an obsession with Cubans - perhaps because it becomes so scarce. One government company has a warehouse-size facility in each town. When folks know there is ice cream available, they stand in line to get a scoop. Often by the time you get to the head of the line, the ice cream is all gone or all that remains is vanilla.
We All Scream for Ice Cream

We All Scream for Ice Cream


I rented a pedicab to take me back to visit the Che and revolution memorials:
In My Santa Clara Pedicab

In My Santa Clara Pedicab


I think he mainly transported locals instead of tourists. He was rather surprised when I flagged him down. He was just getting ready to take a friend home from work. I told them, we could do that first, but they told me to go ahead and she would ride her own bike home.
Adios Paula

Adios Paula


Several women gave me a "thumbs up" when they saw me get in and out of this pedicab. My driver was quite the hunk!
Bye Bye Pedi Cab

Bye Bye Pedi Cab

Posted by pscotterly 05:39 Archived in Cuba Comments (0)

Las Terrazas, Cuba

A UNESCO-Supported, Collective Community

Pastoral Living

Pastoral Living


The Artemisa province is close enough to Habana to enjoy a rural and artistic tour. As a matter of fact, I encountered a Canadian bicycle tour. They were accompanied by a bus and spent nights in hotels or particulars along the way. As an American, you might be able to join this tour, but you would probably have to apply for your visa on your own.
I Wish I Were on This Tour

I Wish I Were on This Tour


As part of a bus tour, I did not have the liberty to explore the province as I would have liked. We did visit the idyllic community of Las Terrazas for lunch, a visit to an artist studio, and a tour of the elementary school.
View of Las Terazas from El Romero Restaurant

View of Las Terazas from El Romero Restaurant


El Romero at Las Terazas

El Romero at Las Terazas


Lunch at Las Terazas

Lunch at Las Terazas

Art Studio in Las Terazas

Art Studio in Las Terazas

Ariel the Artist

Ariel the Artist


Ariel's Paper Drying and Student

Ariel's Paper Drying and Student


Elementary School at Las Terazas

Elementary School at Las Terazas

Fourth Graders

Fourth Graders

Taking a School Break

Taking a School Break


El Romeo restaurant is vegetarian and, I think, government owned. The food was delicious and served uniquely. Because they cater to tourist groups and serve locally-grown dishes, starters and soups varied among the diners at one table. Some found this disconcerting and, of course, wanted exactly what their neighbor had instead of what was placed in front of them.

The area was filled with coffee plantations. When the capitalists fled/were deported after the people's revolution, many of these fell into ruin. Our tour did not view any of these ghosts. The people who remained lived on the brink of disaster without schools, adequate housing, or medical care. Around 1968, the collective community was organized. Anyone who wished to participate was provided with a house. They were required to build the community and actively participate to reap any of the benefits.
Ahhh

Ahhh


Flowers at Terazas

Flowers at Terazas

Cuban Morning Glories

Cuban Morning Glories


Stay at Las Terazas

Stay at Las Terazas


At some point, UNESCO also became a supporter in addition to the Cuban government. Because of its success, many residents of Artemisa province want to be a resident. Apartments have been built to accommodate these "johnny come latelys."
We ended our visit at a coffee shop managed by Maria who lives in one of the apartments and and runs the coffee shop out on the patio of another. I am a little unclear if the coffee shop is government-owned or an entrepreneurial effort. I am sure I was told, but memory fails me.
Cafe at Marie's

Cafe at Marie's


As usual, we were entertained by a musical group. This one played "Cuban fusion" which had a bit of pop-rock sound to it. I bought a CD for my grandson. As so often happens, I enjoyed it so much more during the session than I did when I listened to it on my return! Bazil accepted it politely, however.
Cuban Percussion Set

Cuban Percussion Set

Island Fusion

Island Fusion

Posted by pscotterly 05:02 Archived in Cuba Comments (0)

Cultural Contacts

Fulfilling the USA Embargo Requirements

Unless they go to Cuba via a foreign country, USA citizens must travel with a sanctioned tour that provides cultural and people-to-people contacts.
Although relations have been lightened by Obama, this restriction has not been lifted. Apparently, it is easier to obtain a license for sanctioned tours than it was two months ago.
My friend recently took a tour through Travcoa that has been offering tours for some time. She recently found another organization - in Philadelphia that neither of us had found when we were previously searching. By the time you read this, just Google tours to Cuba, and I am sure you will find many. It seems like the IN thing to do. Oh dear, you know how I hate being "in."
Because of this sanction, American tourists have the opportunity to visit organizations that other tourists might miss.
Road Scholar tours provide lectures on all their tours anywhere in the world, so of course they have them in Cuba. For example, we had lectures on architecture, Cuban and American relations, and religion in Cuba.
Speaker on Architecture

Speaker on Architecture


Lecture on Cuban and American Relations

Lecture on Cuban and American Relations


We visited several schools.
An elementary school in Las Terrazas and also in a small village outside Camaguey.
Classroom

Classroom


Welcome to School

Welcome to School

School Bulletin Board with National Heroes

School Bulletin Board with National Heroes


All schooling from pre-school through college is free. It is mandatory until age 15. All curriculum for all ages is the same whether the school is in the wealthy section of Habana or the remote villages. You must pass tests to be accepted into the specialized art or technical high schools or to continue on to University.
We also visited a high school of the arts. Students must apply and be judged on their work to attend.
High School for Art Students Only

High School for Art Students Only

Art School Classroom

Art School Classroom


Many tourist opportunities are sponsored by the government. These are available to many tourists, but most frequented by those on USA-sponsored trips.
Guide and Daughter

Guide and Daughter


Village Home

Village Home


We visited King's Ranch for a rodeo and pork roast. Three Canadian tourists with a local guide were there on a government-sponsored day trip. These trips are just like any day trip you might schedule from Bordeaux, France or New York City.
Rodeo at the King Ranch

Rodeo at the King Ranch

Roasted Pork

Roasted Pork

Making Sugar Cane Drink

Making Sugar Cane Drink

We visited several community and social groups.
Ola Seniors

Ola Seniors

Bucket Drummer

Bucket Drummer


Always Some Entertainment

Always Some Entertainment

A Chit Chat in a Community Center

A Chit Chat in a Community Center


Many of the social groups are dance clubs that promote the traditional dances of each region.
Dance with Me Henry

Dance with Me Henry

Dancing Demonstration

Dancing Demonstration


We toured the studios of several artists and also had private conversations with some of the artists.
Graphic Artists

Graphic Artists


The Famous Potter Now Putters

The Famous Potter Now Putters


We visited a dance class of a professional classical ballet group in Camaguey and a modern dance performance in Havana. These dance groups are sponsored by the government and receive a monthly salary as do many other performers. Any travel outside Cuba must be sponsored by the country they are visiting or another supporting organization outside of Cuba.
Dance Class

Dance Class

Teatro with Modern Dance Performance

Teatro with Modern Dance Performance


We visited the leprosy clinic. The Sisters of the Poor had staffed the leprosy clinic long before Batista took power. Immediately after the People's Revolution, the Catholic nuns and priests fled. Over the years, many have returned. As for all medical services throughout Cuba, the government pays for the hospital and doctors in this clinic. The Sisters of the Poor have returned here because the community requested it. They continue to provide their services through the support of their sisterhood just as they do in all other countries.
Staff at St Lazaro Leprosy Clinic

Staff at St Lazaro Leprosy Clinic


We met privately with some entrepreneurs to learn how they started their own businesses in the last few years when Raul lifted the restrictions.
Owners of the Habana Particular

Owners of the Habana Particular


Although each of these men from Granma Cay are employed by the government in other jobs, they met with Road Scholar tour groups to discuss hobby fishing and living on this small island. These are typical entrepreneurs who have learned how to make a little money from the booming tourist trade.
Local Entrepreneurs on Granma Island 1257x414

Local Entrepreneurs on Granma Island 1257x414


The tour guide and driver work for the government-sponsored tour company and receive a monthly salary. Ismar has only led six English-speaking tours for Road Scholar. For several years, he has led tours for French-speaking tourists. French and IT were his majors in the university. He feels that the USA Road Scholar tours provide more opportunities to get to know Cuba. Most of the tours he led for French tourists visited a few museums, some art studios, and the beach.
Our Wonderful Driver Hector

Our Wonderful Driver Hector


Ismar and Hector

Ismar and Hector

Posted by pscotterly 04:52 Archived in Cuba Comments (0)

Transportation

Moving Around the Island

I believe you can see great differences among countries - and even cities within a country - by looking at the transportation.
Sculptors must agree.
A Bit of Sculpture

A Bit of Sculpture


Commemorating Delivery

Commemorating Delivery


Definitely, the transportation in Cuba differs greatly from the USA and western Europe. There are some similarities between rural Azerbaijan and this island. You might want to jump to my travel blog for 2013 to look at some of those photos.
Of course, everyone is familiar with the classic 1950 American cars. I have posted some of these photos in other topics and you can still see them in the photo gallery.
Most folks who have autos drive Russian Ladas
Lada

Lada


or unrestored American cars.
Typical Car

Typical Car


As part of our tour, we all received a short ride in a classic auto.
Ride in a Classic Car

Ride in a Classic Car


My driver grinned and said "Si" when I pointed at him and asked "mechanico?" That was all we could communicate.
He Should Be Proud

He Should Be Proud


The next most frequent mode of motorized transport are tour buses.
Many Buses Only One Hector

Many Buses Only One Hector


There are also ancient school buses and some public buses. It appeared the school buses were used as public buses for the general population when not transporting students.
Santa Clara Transportation

Santa Clara Transportation


Many people use large dump trucks as public transportation. I think some of these are government owned and some are run by entrepreneurs.
Personal and Group Transport

Personal and Group Transport


Big Yellow Taxi

Big Yellow Taxi


Banana Stand

Banana Stand

See the "public bus" in the background.
Agriculture depends on Russian-made equipment. Much of it outdated because of the collapse of the USSR.
Russian Tractor Coming Through

Russian Tractor Coming Through


I still saw fields being worked with oxen, mules, and horses but was not able to get a photo as we passed in the bus.
Horse and mule transport was encouraged by the government when the oil crisis began - another result of the collapse of the USSR.
I was most interested in the method of trash pickup.
AM Recycler

AM Recycler

Trash Wagon

Trash Wagon


Urban Livestock

Urban Livestock


Burro in El Cobre 975x818

Burro in El Cobre 975x818


Common Transport

Common Transport


Carriages are still built and maintained in the city of Bayamo. Because of this, government-owned tours travel through the streets and you can visit the factory.
Tourist Carriage in Bayamo

Tourist Carriage in Bayamo


Carriage Maker's Personal Transportation

Carriage Maker's Personal Transportation


Bicycles are used throughout the cities, small towns, and even rural areas.
Compounds are set up for secure bicycle parking. I am not sure if they are government owned or staffed by entrepreneurs.
Bicycle Parque

Bicycle Parque


Transport Bike at the Market

Transport Bike at the Market


Many locals use pedi-cabs - in Cuba called bic taxis - to commute.
Only 11 CUCs

Only 11 CUCs


Delivering Produce to a Paladar

Delivering Produce to a Paladar


The government owns tourist companies that most tourists use.
Government-Owned Tourist Business

Government-Owned Tourist Business


Through the Street in a Bic-taxi

Through the Street in a Bic-taxi


Delivery through the streets is often done by push carts.
Delivery Service

Delivery Service

Not surprising, few Cubans own boats.
This is a government-owned ferry that makes frequent trips between Granma Cay and Santiago de Cuba cuidad for only a few cents.
Ferry to Granma Island 1304x919

Ferry to Granma Island 1304x919


No one can afford yachts or sailboats. Those in the marinas are either owned by tourists or the government.
Sailboats of the Government and Tourists

Sailboats of the Government and Tourists


Sailed from Texas

Sailed from Texas


This enterprising Granma Island resident used this as a way to generate income. She would give you a shell and encourage you to take her picture in hopes you would give her a little cash.
Take Me With You

Take Me With You

Posted by pscotterly 09:24 Archived in Cuba Tagged cuba Comments (0)

Put Your Head on a Pillow

Places to Sleep in Cuba

Many government hotels are available throughout Cuba.
The first hotel I stayed in was the infamous Hotel Nacional de Cuba.
Hotel Nacional Cuba-001

Hotel Nacional Cuba-001

Hotel Nacional Cuba

Hotel Nacional Cuba

In the Garden of the Nacional

In the Garden of the Nacional


In its early years, the National was mob run. It was here in the 1930s that the first Mafia meeting was held where the plans were made to have Cuba be a mob-run nation. Read Havana Nocturne for the best account of that period in Cuba's history.

If you visit Havana and want to have a bit of stay in the country, I recommend the Hotel Moka in Las Terrazas for less than $150 a day.

Travel a bit farther to Santa Clara and stay where we did at Villa la Granjita.
Generally, tour groups stay at the Hotel America near the town square. I enjoyed our stay in the country after the contrast of four day in Havana.
Our Hotel Near Santa Clara

Our Hotel Near Santa Clara

Meow

Meow

Good Morning on the Grounds of Santa Clara Hotel

Good Morning on the Grounds of Santa Clara Hotel

Surprisingly Ecological

Surprisingly Ecological


In the last few years, Cuban entrepreneurs have been allowed to open casas particulares (bed and breakfasts) in their home. Here is one site where you can locate one and here is another.
Wikipedia provides a good definition.
A particular, also called a hostal, must be licensed and have an appropriate sign on the door. It resembles a letter I with rounded rooftops above and below; our guide referred to it as an anchor. If the owner can host foreigners, the symbol is blue. If the owner is licensed for Cubans, the symbol is red.
Emblem Means Particular

Emblem Means Particular

Hostal Conchita

Hostal Conchita


If caught hosting a guest of the nationality for which you are not licensed, repercussions can occur. I think they can be fined and perhaps lose their license. It is my understanding, the reasoning was to keep the foreigners separate from Cubans.
Particular owners pay a monthly fee to the government for each room they have available for tourists and 10% of their actual receipts. Some USA folks gasp and say "They must pay the government!"
Well, guess what, it's called taxes here. We pay sales and hospitality taxes whenever we stay in a USA hotel and that business pays those taxes to the Government. Cubans have no other sales, income, or property taxes as we do here.
We visited a particular in Havana run by a family of doctors. (Another entry will include more information on how Cubans have the rights to property.)

You could rent a nice room with private bath for about $50. Somehow, I have deleted all the photos of this place, but I would definitely choose to stay here.
We stayed in casas paticulares in Trinidad, Cuba. Because each facility has only a few rooms, our group of 23 was assigned to different facilities.
I enjoyed ours very much. The rooms in Casa Conchita had been decorated and sewn by Conchita herself.
I Matched My Room

I Matched My Room

Orange Room en Hostal Conchita

Orange Room en Hostal Conchita

Blue Room in Hostal Conchita

Blue Room in Hostal Conchita


Our Colorful Patio

Our Colorful Patio


The hosts were most accommodating and provided dinner and breakfast with four times as much food as we could eat. They are provided with funds from Road Scholar for our stay. We were told they are paid quite well for our stay and must use the money for us. Consequently, they have plenty of leftovers for friends and family - for which I am very glad.
Breakfast Table en la Hostal de Conchita

Breakfast Table en la Hostal de Conchita


Some of the members on the tour complained because no one in their group could speak Spanish and no one in the particular could speak English. Get over it, folks - or stay home - or learn the language! I think many of us thought this was supposed to be a cultural interchange. However just as any B&B anywhere else in the world, the owners might chat a bit but it is still their business and they are not going to want to delve into their guests' personal lives nor expect you to poke into theirs.
Roberto Conchita and Great Grandaughter

Roberto Conchita and Great Grandaughter


The Gran Hotel in Camaguey was the only place where I was dissatisfied. Having had to pay the single supplement, I found the single rooms were similar to European single rooms. This one was higher than it was wide. The only benefit was a window that was eight feet from the floor. Even though I could not see anything but a patch of sky it was great for hanging laundry. Since we were here for three nights, everything dried for repacking.

In Santiago de Cuba we stayed in a very large, very new tourist resort Melia Santiago and, I must admit, completely enjoyed my beautiful view and all the amenities of a typical tourist hotel. It was even better than staying at the Miami DoubleTree.
Landing on the 14th Floor

Landing on the 14th Floor


I felt we had a wonderful cross-section of foreign tourist accommodations. Anyone should be able to find something to enjoy.
However if you are fussy, I heard complaints about pillows, AC units, slow elevators, no elevators, bad food, too hot, too cold, rooster crowing, dogs barking, party noises.
Some people should just stay home.

Posted by pscotterly 05:19 Archived in Cuba Tagged cuba Comments (0)

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