By Elio Delgado Legon
HAVANA TIMES — In July last year, I published an article here on Havana Times under the heading “My Nostalgia for Santa Clara” and I mentioned the old wooden barracks of a house where the Professional Trade School used to be located and the provincial jail, where I was kept on more than one occasion because of my revolutionary activities.
A few days ago, I was in Santa Clara again and I wanted to visit these two places, where I hadn’t returned after all those hard student-worker years when I couldn’t go to class more than a couple of times a week, because I didn’t earn enough to pay for the bus fare five times a week.
Of course, the old wooden barracks of a house, from the early 20th century or late 19th century, no longer exists, but there is the huge space which it once occupied when I began to study accounting. Talking with a neighbor who lives in front, I found out that there was a warehouse there, before what exists today was built: a tavern where you can eat good food and drink fine wines, which is called the Punta Brava Tavern. The rest of the space is now the tavern’s patio, where firewood is kept to feed the oven.
El Carmen Park is very nearby, where we students used to go when a teacher didn’t turn up for class, so that we could talk and spend the time until our next class. Everything has been renovated and painted, just like the church which shares the same name, which takes up part of the block the park is located on.
The police station used to be in front of this park, with its cells, where I was kept prisoner more than once. I remember that one time, General Cornelio Rojas, police captain in the Las Villas province approached the bars where a group of young inmates were being held and asked us if we were communists. He told us that he too was a communist when he was young, but that he then realized his mistake and left communism. He said a few more things about communism, which I can no longer remember, but they sent us to jail from there to await our hearing at the emergency court. Luckily, we weren’t interrogated like others who were tortured or killed.
When this police station was taken, in December 1958, Roberto Rodriguez “El Vaquerito”, a fighter from the 8th column Ciro Redondo, under Che Guevara’s leadership, was killed when his column was fighting to take control of Santa Clara.
Today, the old police station is no longer a place where people are locked up or tortured, but instead it has been converted into a junior high school, taking this martyr’s name, where hundreds of teenagers study. Young people who no longer have to fear the threat of the police, or of being locked up, or tortured, because today, the police force is there to ensure public security, and not to repress people like it used to do when I was there. Now, you can’t hear the screams of people being tortured, but instead the commotion of teenagers who happily study to face their futures better prepared.