On Sunday morning we drove for two hours to the Che Guevara Mausoleum and Monument in Santa Clara. Here are the remains of “Che” and twenty-nine others, including one woman, who were killed in 1967 during Guevara’s attempt to spur an armed uprising in Bolivia. There is also a bronze 22-foot statue of Che in this monument complex. Guevara, who was born in Argentina, was buried with full military honors in 1997 after his remains were discovered in Bolivia, exhumed, and returned to Cuba. There is also an eternal flame lit by Fidel Castro in Che’s memory. Our guide told us that Santa Clara was selected as the site for the mausoleum and monument as a way to remember Guevara’s troops taking the city on December 31, 1958, during the Battle of Santa Clara. It was the final battle of the Cuban Revolution. After this defeat, Batista fled into exile.
What is particularly interesting to me was to see how much Che is remembered, recognized and idolized, particularly by young Cubans. He is the handsome young hero who died with his boots on fighting for the freedom of the peasants and the poor. And the Cuban Revolution, too, is recalled with the same sense of sentiment and nostalgia that the American South has for its Lost Cause. Fidel takes second place to this young revolutionary outsider, this lone cowboy, who we might say rode into Cuba to free the land from Batista and the American mafia running the gaming tables of Havana.
It is all very romantic.