The capital of Villa Clara Province is a pleasant city of 200,000, with a busy center where cobbled streets are lined with historic buildings and a periphery of factories and modern apartment buildings. Santa Clara was the site of a decisive battle during the last days of 1958, and the remains of the quintessential revolutionary, Ernesto "Che" Guevara, rest in a monument at the edge of town. But you need merely visit the central plaza of this provincial capital to discover that its history stretches back centuries and that it has a good bit going on today.
Settled in 1689 by a group of landowners from nearby Remedios, Santa Clara's rich agricultural land and fortuitous location between Havana and Eastern Cuba have made it a relatively affluent provincial center. It's home to Cuba's third-largest university, the Universidad Central de Las Villas, whose students give the city its liberal reputation and youthful vibe. It's one of the few Cuban towns with a visible gay presence.