So, into Santa Clara we go. First impressions were that this is an actual town, as we understand the concept - with shops and restaurants and everything.
Venturing out the next day we saw that it was indeed more of a town than previous places we had been - but also ridiculously busy. There are people absolutely everywhere, looking like they have somewhere to be - a rarity thus far in Cuba. And queues absolutely everywhere - a queue to get into the bank, then one to actually get served, a 20 minute wait for shampoo in a shop, and trying to get on the internet takes at least half an hour.
Santa Clara is the home of Che Guevara worship. His body was returned from Bolivia and interred here - with a Memorial and Museum built in his honour. The museum was interesting, if a little amusing ("and here is a chair that once belonged to Che's Grandmother") and the memorial includes the graves of 17 other revolutionaries.
We have also visited a Tobacco factory here. 380 staff produce 15000 cigars a day, hand rolling, testing (we fully expected to see an old guy in the corner 'quality controlling' the cigars but alas, a machine is used to test the pressre) and packaging each one by hand. Training takes 9 months and employees earn an average of 360 cuban pesos a month - about 10 pounds.
This brought home to us the inequalities that exist in Cuba - a country where equality is supposedly the ideal. Everyone earns roughly the same - tobacco factory workers, doctors, street cleaners - and has access to the same (high) level of healthcare and education. Everyone has a roof over their heads and food is rationed so that everyone gets a fair share. The quality of life may not be what we would expect (hence the awful food) but it is equal.
Then come the tourists with a second type of currency (CUCs). CUCs can buy pretty much anything - as much food, drink, toiletries and electronic gadgets as anyone could want. The result is that those who come into contact with tourists - from taxi drivers to beggars - end up earning far more than the doctors and office workers who don't. And they can, therefore, buy the extra food, clothes and jewellery.
How this is sustainable in the long run we have no idea - it probably isn't. And it seems to be the cause of much of the disillusion felt by Cuba's young.
Onto Havana next for us. We're glad we came to see Santa Clara but it's a bit crowded for us.