Thursday, May 10, 2012

Cuba Travel Diary - Museums

Cuban museums are packed full of historical detritus, largely pertaining to the various cults of personality out of which the island's notably afflicted historiography has been formed. If Che Guevara had made use of a set of false teeth during the Sierra Maestra campaign, you can bet your bottom convertible peso that they would be sitting in a glass display case somewhere in Cuba.

For foreign visitors the format quickly becomes familiar. The entrance fee is usually 2 CUCs. But if you want to to take photos, you will be asked for an additional 5 CUCs. One soon discovers that this exorbitant tithe is avoidable, provided one is prepared to recruit one of the staff — almost always significantly outnumbering visitors  as an unofficial guide. 

He or she (though it's usually a she) will for a small gratuity, not only permit photos, but will also — with a look signalling a certain degree of perilous intrigue —  tend to open up areas that otherwise appear off limits to public scrutiny. 

By far the most melancholic exhibit I came across on this trip were the last earthly remains of Comrade Alberto Granado, Che's companion during the Argentinian pair's famous trek around South America on Granado's Norton 500, La Poderosa. These are contained within a small blue urn in the somewhat ramshackle museum beneath the Che Guevara monument in Santa Clara, not in the sombre mausoleum itself, where the Comandante is enterred along with six other guerrillas who died in the ill-fated Bolivian insurgency...and not in fact apparently meriting their very own glass case free of other revolutionary bric-a-brac.

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