Villa Clara province's capital, the city of Santa Clara was established in the 17th century by coastal residents wishing to avoid the constant hazard of pirate attacks. Historically, the city has had significant strategic importance because of its central location and proximity to agricultural assets. In December 1958, a fierce battle took place here between Castro's rebels (led by Che Guevara) and the forces of dictator Fulgencio Batista. Following the battle, Batista fled the island.
Today, Santa Clara is home to a population of 175,000. Santa Clara is generally a pleasant place to stay; in its drive to modernize Cuban cities and urban centers, Santa Clara did not go unnoticed, and has undergone a good deal of development.
Though it has historically been a hub of agricultural trade and commerce, Santa Clara's importance today lays more in the areas of industry and education. Apparently Che Guevara remembered Santa Clara, and used his position as Minister of Industry to ensure that it receives at least its fair share of funding from the government's industrialization programs. In any event, Santa Clara's numerous factories as well as its close proximity to the heavily industrial province of Cienfuegos make it an important center of industry in the province.
The city itself is mainly bypassed by tourists traveling from one end of the island to the other; nevertheless, its cultural attractions give the city some tourist value. Theathers, art, architecture, and the historic sites dedicated to the last battle before Batista fled, should be enough to fill up at least a day.