The first teacher that Santa Clara had was a native of Jamaica, invalid, called Blas Martín who taught the first letters to the children free of charge as far back as 1689. The first school began to work in 1712 in the hermitage El Carmen and attended personally by the priest Juan de Conyedo who gave classes to the boys; while the girls were taught to read and write by Doña Agueda García, wife of the poet José Surí who was the first Cuban bard.


Leoncio Vidal Park. City Center.

The economic life of Santa Clara had its main items in livestock with the sale of salted meats and hides to several places of the Island, in addition to the active trade of contraband that for many years developed, and the cultivation of wheat. Walking towards the end of the current Serafín García Street (formerly Nazareno), after passing a bridge over the Bélico River, we find the remains of an old well, known as Los Molinos, which supplied water to a wheat mill that was built there.

The growth of the town was slow but sustained, little by little other streets were drawn up that curiously were named with religious names, such as San José, Sancti Spíritus, San Agustín, La Gloria del Calvario, La Cruz, San Mateo, San Vicente, San Pablo, San Pedro, etc., and that with the passing of time were renamed with the names of patriots distinguished in the fight against Spanish colonialism; Enrique Villuendas, Juan Bruno Zayas, José B. Alemán, Leoncio Vidal, Carlos Roloff, Coronel Gálvez, Eduardo Machado Gómez or with names of fallen in the fight against the Machado’s tyranny as Rolando Pardo, Chiquitín Pedraza, or illustrious figures of the city such as Julio Jover, Manuel Dionisio Gonzáles, etc. It is worth noting that Santa Clara has more martyrs and patriots than streets to honor them.


It was also at the initiative of Father Conyedo that the first church was rebuilt, which in 1738 was replaced by a new masonry temple built in the same place, and which was called Iglesia Mayor, so the square that was next to it received since then the name of Plaza Mayor and it is on one side of this church that was the first cemetery of Villa Clara, apart from the traditional custom of burying high civil, military or religious officials inside the church itself. Conyedo’s work was the so-called Ermita de la Candelaria, built where today is the Teatro La Caridad, and it was also the first hospital that the town had.

In his honor and that of another priest who did a lot for the education of children in Santa Clara, an obelisk of gray granite was erected in today’s Leoncio Vidal Caro Park, which was paid for by the distinguished patriot Doña Marta Abréu de Estévez, who carried out numerous works for the benefit of the city.

It is worth knowing the fact that those who were born in Santa Clara and were baptized in the font of the main church were given the nickname of pilongos, which replaced the poblanos, as they were initially called. Being pilongo is a guarantee of being a legitimate and pure villaclareño.

Another interesting fact related to the foundation of Santa Clara is that when the Remedians arrived at the banks of the Cubanicay River they found there a rustic wooden cross which years later and at the initiative of a neighbor was replaced by another one of marble that is still preserved and that is part of our most appreciated legends of Santa Clara; the legend of the Bridge of the Cross.


That very modest and poor village founded on July 15, 1689 is today the sixth largest city in Cuba, with more than a quarter of a million inhabitants; it has large industries, higher education centers, paved streets, an aqueduct and sewage system, and is the capital of the current province of Villa Clara.

To the wars against the Spanish colonialism Santa Clara contributed a great number of its sons, most of them fell gloriously in the battlefield murdered after having been taken prisoners. During the tyrannies of Machado and Batista new names were added to the villaclareño martyrology, and we cannot forget that, precisely in it, the last battle in the war of National Liberation was fought and many of its current buildings show the traces of the bullets received as the Hotel Santa Clara Libre or the beautiful marble monument erected in the Parque del Carmen in memory of the founders; It was witness to the combat for the capture of the Police Headquarters where Captain Roberto Rodriguez, “El Vaquerito”, was mortally wounded, in whose honor a memorial stele of that action is erected in the same park.

There, next to the monument to the founders stands a glorious tamarind tree. It is not precisely the one under whose shade the founders heard mass; the more than 300 years that have passed since then have caused the first one to die, as well as those that have been planted since then. This is the fourth tamarind tree, but it is no less glorious for that reason, which is evident every July 15, the anniversary of the founding of the city. Always at the foot of the same one is celebrated the celebration that serves to remember, to own and strangers, that to the shade of a tree a small group of people met one day that united their efforts and arms to lay the foundations of what 300 years later would be a splendid, beautiful and welcoming city, the present Santa Clara, cradle of hard workers, of selfless patricians, of brave and courageous men of revolutionary action. [1]If we take into account the date and the historical circumstances of the country in which this text was published, the patriotic and haranguing tone of the last sentences will be better understood.

Luis A. García Gonzales

Dr. Luis A. García Gonzales. Born in Santa Clara on January 18, 1917. He graduated in Philosophy and Letters at the University of Havana. He has been a professor at the Universities of Oriente and Central de Las Villas. Also of the Pre-University "Osvaldo Herrera" of Santa Clara.

He has been awarded 5 times in the 1st of January History Contest.

He has published biographies of Orestes de la Torre Morgado and Juan Alberto Días Gonzales by Editora Política. He has published articles in Granma[2]Official newspaper of the Cuban Government with national scope, Bastión, Vanguardia and in the magazines Transporte, Mar y Pesca, Cubanacán and the Bulletin 8/16 of Cine Club Cubanacán[3]Magazines and newspapers with local and national scope. Five of his scripts have won awards at the Cine Club Cubanacán Festivals[4]Amateur Film Festival that takes place annually in the center of the island.

Editing: Angel Cristóbal García
Escambray Collection, Santa Clara, 1993. Printed in Cuba by PUBLICIGRAF


1 If we take into account the date and the historical circumstances of the country in which this text was published, the patriotic and haranguing tone of the last sentences will be better understood.
2 Official newspaper of the Cuban Government with national scope
3 Magazines and newspapers with local and national scope
4 Amateur Film Festival that takes place annually in the center of the island