Question: I will be in Camagüey and Sancti Spíritus provinces in January and I would like info on the invasion route of Che’s army as they made their way from the Sierra Maestra to Santa Clara. Are there any resources I can obtain to find points of interest, rebel garrisons and historic sites of battles, etc. in these provinces?
Answer: The route of Che’s Ejercito Rebelde (Rebel Army) from the Sierra Maestra to the victorious battle of Santa Clara began in the eastern provinces of Granma and Holguín. Important sites include the following:
- Las Coloradas, where the Granma launch first landed on December 2, 1956, after sailing from Mexico with 82 young revolutionaries – among them Fidel and Raul Castro, Camilo Cienfuegos and Che himself. From here, those who survived the landing escaped into the Sierra Maestra Mountains, later dividing up into three groups led by Fidel and his brother Raul, and Che.
- The house in El Jibara from where Che left for the invasion.
- The Comandancia de la Plata which was the mountain headquarters of Fidel in the Sierra Maestra and from where the first broadcasting of Radio Rebelde – founded in February 1958 by Che – took place at Altos de Conrado in the sierra Maestra.
- Che’s headquarters at La Otilia, one of his last outposts before his legendary march to Santa Clara, and much more.
Among the Che-related sites in Camagüey is the following:
- Che and Camilo Cienfuegos entered the capital city of Camagüey in September 1958. In the city is also found Casa Jesus Suarez Gayol, now a museum. This was the birthplace of Jesus Suarez, one of the guerrillas who died with Che in 1967, in Bolivia.
From here, the route of the Third Front, led by Che, took him through Cuba’s three central provinces of Camagüey, Sancti Spíritus and Villa Clara (where Santa Clara is located). The Sierra del Escambray, Cuba’s second-highest mountain range, is located in the southwest part of central Cuba. It was in these mountains where Che established a front and from where, in late December 1958, his rebel army swept down upon Santa Clara – the last decisive battle of the Revolution before Fulgencio Batista fled Cuba.
In Sancti Spíritus is found such historic Che-related sites as the following:
- Comandancia del Guerrillero Heroico: located near the community of Gavilanes, this is where Che established his headquarters at El Pedrero, in the mountains of the Alturas de Banao.
To reach Santa Clara, Che’s Rebel Army traveled from the coastal port of Caibarién to the town of Camajuani, and from there to Santa Clara. In Santa Clara are found important historic monuments marking the battle, such as the following:
- Tren Blindado: where rebel troops, led by Che, derailed an armored train transporting Batista’s troops and armaments. Today it is a museum.
- Hotel Santa Clara Libre, fronting Parque Vidal, was the scene of a battle between Batista’s troops and Che’s revolutionaries.
- Loma del Capiro, located on the northeast side of the city, has a monument on top commemorating the taking of the hill by Che in 1958.
- Plaza de la Revolución: here, a bronze statue of Che stands above the exquisite mausoleum where his remains and those of most of his compatriots from Bolivia lie in rest. The excellent Museo de Che, which details the capture of Santa Clara, is located here.
In Havana, the old house in which Che lived from 1962 until his final departure from Cuba, in 1965, to go to the Congo, is today theCentro de Estudios Che Guevara (Che Guevara Studies Centre). The main objective of this Centre is to promote, both within and outside Cuba, the study and knowledge of the thought, life and works of Comandante Ernesto Che Guevara. Che’s wife, Aleida March, is the director of the centre and it’s operated by their son, Camilo Guevara.
Centro de Estudios Che Guevara
Calle 47 No. 772
e/ Calle 26 y Santa Ana
Nuevo Vedado, Plaza de la Revolución
Ciudad de La Habana, Cuba
Telephone (537) 881-4113
Fax (537) 855-5725
email [email protected]
In a phone consultation with the Centre, they explained that they do not organize individual tours or have any kind of written documents that would help individual visitors to Cuba find their way along Che’s route. Nor were they able to recommend any specific books that might provide this information.
However, in collaboration with the Centro de Estudios Che Guevara, Ocean Press – an independent publisher focusing particularly on Latin America – has initiated the Che Guevara publishing project to make available Che’s complete writings, as well as books about Che by other authors. For more information, see their website at www.oceanbooks.com.au
One of the most extensive lists of English language works relating to Che Guevara, excluding books written by Guevara himself, is found in the Wikipedia “free encyclopedia,” under the title List of works related to Che Guevara. Included are books (biographical, comic book themed, novels, photography and travelogues), media (documentaries, theatrical films, musicals / plays and audio CDs), academic works (journal articles and presented papers) and external links.
Starting with the information provided above, the independent traveler interested in following Che’s route might want to consult various books, identify more details about his route, and then consult within the particular province you’re visiting with local tourist information offices. The Tourist Desks in larger hotels might be able to provide information of where to ask.