We arrived in Santa Clara at an airport that is managed by the military, Immigration process is very formal no smiles no verbal interactions beyond necessary questions and answers. The luggage is scanned. Our guide had given us a bag with foodstuff which included an apple, I had asked the steward if I would be able to take the fruit in and his response was “sure this is Cuba” but upon scanning I was informed I was not allowed to take fruits in, no problem, it was taken without any hassle. First impression was how clean and fairly modern the place appeared. I am not sure what my expectations were but kept an open mind and was pleasantly surprised.
I noticed immediately that there was a lot of construction going on. I also noted that there were high buildings some buildings could be better maintained but in general the appearance was fair and did not reflect high poverty levels.
The tour was arranged under the People to People agreement and included a lot of opportunities for us to meet and interact with the natives. Our first interaction was at a senior citizen center which was quite different than I expected. When I heard about our planned visit I assumed it would have been where there would be senior folks being cared for by allied help as in a nursing home.
This was a center where retired and non- retired people met to do handcraft, play games, socialize and sell some articles made by the team members. There are other branches of this group all over the country. We were given the significance of the fan and how it is used by ladies to send different messages particular to men as to whether they are interested in a suitor or not. A senior couple entertained us with dances and we were invited to join in certain numbers. Interestingly enough most of the ladies were nurses so we engaged in conversations regarding the profession and led to deeper bonding.
We visited a daycare center run by nuns. Parents are able to go to work, go looking for work or go to school.
We also visited a ration center where the worker keeps record by pen and paper as technology is not yet as advanced.
The first night at our hotel , Playa Cato Santa Maria ,out in the keys we got some dance lessons after a wonderful welcome dinner of Cuban cuisine which included rice, vegetables, pork and fish.
We had such a packed day that after dance lessons we didn’t get a chance to get to the beach but got ready for our next day. We visited the town of Remedios a beautiful city quite clean and colorful. We visited the Parish church , San Juan Baustista, where we had some time with the priest who spoke about some of the projects being done in the community. Inside the church was quite impressive. The square was busy with students heading in different directions; quite notable was that they were wearing uniforms. There were several bike taxis and others just hanging around looking real relaxed.
Remedios is know for its Christmas Festival “Parandas Festival” We visited the museum and spoke with some of the organizers. We were able to see picture displays of some of the floats on show during the celebration. During the festival people display the different musical talent and instruments, there is dancing , fireworks and beautifully designed floats.
We then went unto the town of Caibarein where we visited the Bee keeper for a demonstration of honey production and admired some Cuban art work. We also visited a mini museum that displayed historical pictures of the community. To give you an idea of the size, we had to enter in groups.
We then went unto another community project “Color de Miel“. Here we met people of different ages involved in art work, dancing, performing etc.
There were instructors teaching the different skills and we were invited to participate in some of their dance routines. The talent was amazing a young girl sang a popular song in English although her English was limited.
a visit to Santa Clara would not be complete without visiting Che Guevara’s mausoleum
A glimpse of our bus ride to Havana.