Day 10 - Tuesday, December 7, 1999

For once I am happy to see that my car has received an unsolicited wash, given my ramblings of last night. I leave for Santa Clara, which is 90 kilometers up ahead along the Carretera Central. Should be a breeze.

Family graveI pull over to have a look at a cemetery. A couple of men are working there to keep things neat and clean. When walking around in places like this, I always get the impression that some tombs seem to have been created to outdo those of the 'neighbors'. Especially funny when you see this in a country where all people are equal.

Room with a viewHills and nice views. More hills and even better views. I recommend this stretch of the Carretera Central to anyone driving across Cuba. The quality of the road is not bad, either. I arrive at the equally recommendable Hotel Los Caneyes long before noon, allowing me to see the sights in Che city in one day and leave the next morning. Even when I first have to clean up the mess that a popped-open shampoo bottle created...

Che PlazaHis finest hour #3. Contrary to my usual ways I decide not to walk into the city, but to go there by car. Even without the direction of the one-way streets being indicated, the little map in my LP guide has enough details on it to make me feel confident and as I cross the immense Plaza de la Revolución the first attack wave of hustlers-on-bikes sets in. I can hardly describe the rush that comes over me when time after time I manage to outsmart the guy that pursues me and still keep on track towards the train monument. Must give him credit for his persistence, though...and don't get me wrong: I appreciate that they try to offer their services, but when it's uncalled for, it's nothing but a nuisance to me.

Derailing deviceThe permanent police watch at the Monumento a la Toma del Tren Blindado allows me to park the car and not worry about it. I try to imagine what went on the moment the train was derailed...the capture was quite a feat considering that Guevara and his 18 companions found themselves opposing over 400 government troops. I plunge into the crosstown traffic around Parque Vidal again to go and visit the other main attraction that Santa Clara has to offer. As I expected, the Museo Histórico de la Revolución features a large copy of the famous photo that helped spin nationwide Che-mania in Holland in 1968 (from hearsay; I was born that year :). Even the beret and the jacket he is wearing in the picture are on display. A group of Italian tourists enter the museum and I walk over to the mausoleum where Guevara is laid to rest.

I wonder what doctor Guevara would have felt listening to Antonio's story. A university graduate in his forties, Antonio had been working as a teacher for several years when one day he was told that his services were no longer required due to changing conditions. In order to make a living he had no other choice than to accept a different job well below his capabilities. Today he suffers from an ulcer causing him a lot of pain after any meal he has, and he is 10 kilograms underweight as a result. He is being denied the required medicine and cannot buy it himself because he simply does not make enough money. The only way he will receive treatment is when the ulcer breaks and a life-threatening emergency situation occurs. Socialismo o muerte.