Exploring the province
Villa Clara is one of the 15 provinces that make up the territory of the Republic of Cuba. Known worldwide for hosting in its soil the remains of the legendary Argentine-Cuban guerrilla commander, Ernesto Guevara de la Serna, as well as for the exceptional beauty of its insular and mountainous landscapes, the rich heritage of its cities and the cultural heritage of its people, it is the cradle of notable figures of Cuban arts, sciences, politics and sports, of which not a few exponents have even transcended the international arena.
Villa Clara is an industrialized province like few others, it has a century-old tradition based on sugar production and the chemical, leather and iron and steel spheres which, with the triumph of the Cuban Revolution, would be enriched with its expansion, modernization and incorporation of exponents of other branches such as textiles, biotechnology, machinery and telecommunications, automotive, among others. Likewise, it constitutes an important scientific enclave with epicenter in the Central University “Marta Abreu” of Las Villas, one of the most prestigious of the nation.
The origin of the province of Villa Clara dates back to the creation of the jurisdictions of Remedios, Trinidad, Sancti Spíritus, Santa Clara, Sagua la Grande and Cienfuegos in the mid-nineteenth century, which would lead to the territory where it now sits, mostly, to be known as Las Villas (With the foundation of Remedios, Trinidad and Sancti Spíritus first, as Las Tres Villas or Places; after the foundation of Santa Clara as Las Cuatro Villas; until it became Las Villas with the incorporation of Sagua la Grande and Cienfuegos later). On June 9, 1878, by Royal Decree of the Spanish Government, the Cuban territory would be divided into six provinces that would take the names of their leading cities, with which Las Villas would officially be named Santa Clara until the Constitution of 1940 in which it retakes what it traditionally had formed by six judicial parties: Trinidad, Sancti Spíritus, Remedios, Santa Clara, Sagua la Grande and Cienfuegos.
- Las Brujas Beach
- Santa María Key and Ensenachos Key
- The pedestrian boulevard of Santa Clara
- Camajuaní Valley
- The Hanabanilla Lake&Falls
- Monument and Mausoleum of Che Guevara in Villa Clara
- Loma del Capiro
- Leoncio Vidal Park
- Church of Nuestra Señora del Carmen
- Melaíto Murals
- Marcelo Salado Sugar Agroindustry Museum
- Abel Santamaría Provincial Museum
- Tobacco Factory Constantino Pérez Carrodegua
- La Caridad Theatre
- Cathedral of Santa Clara
- El Bosque Zoological Garden
- José Martí Provincial Palace and Library
- La Caridad Theatre
- City of Remedios
- Parish Church of San Juan Bautista y Nuestra Señora del Buen Viaje (Saint John the Baptist and Our Lady of the Good Journey)
Parque Vidal in Villa Clara
A veritable alfresco theater named for Colonel Leoncio Vidal y Caro, who was killed here on March 23, 1896, Parque Vidal was encircled by twin sidewalks during the colonial era, with a fence separating blacks and whites. Scars of more recent division are evident on the facade of mint-green Hotel Santa Clara Libre on the park’s west side: it’s pockmarked by bullet holes from the 1958 battle for the city between Guevara and Batista’s government troops.
Today all the colors of Cuba’s cultural rainbow mix in one of the nation’s busiest and most vibrant urban spaces, with old men in guayabera shirts smoking cigars on the shaded benches and young kids getting pulled around in carriages led by goats. Find time to contemplate the statues of local philanthropist Marta Abreu and the emblematic El niño de la bota (Boy with a Boot), a long-standing city symbol. Since 1902, the municipal orchestra has played rousing music in the park bandstand at 8pm every Thursday and Sunday.
Fábrica de Tabacos Constantino Pérez Carrodegua
Villa Clara tobacco factory, one of Cuba’s best, makes a quality range of Montecristo, Partagás and Romeo y Julieta cigars. Tours here are lo-fi compared to those in Havana, and so the experience is a lot more interesting and less rushed. Buy tickets in advance at the Cubatur office. Beware, opening times can be erratic.
Across the street is La Veguita, the factory’s diminutive but comprehensively stocked sales outlet, staffed by a friendly, ultra-professional team of cigar experts. You can buy cheap rum here, and the bar brews exquisite coffee.
One of the area’s oldest and oddest curiosities is this San Diego tanker, built in 1920 and wrecked in 1933 on the far side of Cayo Francés, just west of Cayo las Brujas. Later the ship was used to store molasses, and later still it was opened up as a rather surreal hotel-restaurant (now closed).