Plaza del Carmen
The exquisite little Plaza del Carmen, at the north end of Máximo Gómez, five blocks north of Parque Vidal, is dominated by the Iglesia Nuestra Señora del Carmen, a national monument dating to 1748. It is fronted by a granite monument that arcs around a tamarind tree where the first mass was held to celebrate the founding of Santa Clara on July 15, 1689.
The church, which was used as a women’s prison during the Wars of Independence, is riddled with bullet holes fired from the police station—now named El Vaquerito—across the street during the battle of December 29, 1958. On the north side of the church is a life-size figure of revolutionary hero Roberto Rodríquez Fernández—el vaquerito—of whose death Che Guevara said, “We have lost one hundred men.”
Two blocks east, the Fábrica de Tabaco (Maceo #181, e/ Julyo Jover and Berenguer, tel. 042/20-2211) has guided tours of the tobacco factory (9–11 a.m. and 1–3 p.m., CUC4). You need to buy your ticket in advance from Cubatur, Cubanacán, or Havanatur. No photos are permitted.
© Christopher P. Baker from Moon Cuba, 5th Edition