Havana's Graveyard, Havana
The Cristobal Colon Cemetery is like a miniature city, with streets and squares as well as "houses." The elaborate tombs are very interesting to look at. The city’s wealthiest people bought plots around its central square because there was a rumor that Colombus would be brought there and reburied. (He wasn’t.)
There is a large monument honoring the 18 firemen who died fighting a warehouse fire, and they are buried behind it.
We saw several women just sitting on a tomb and visiting. Perhaps they had brought flowers and then met a neighbor.
It may seem odd for a large graveyard to be a tourist attraction, but this one is quite lovely. The cemetary is now home to around 2 million graves, the same size at the current population of Havana. Many famous Cubans are buried here, including la Milagrosa (see paragraph below). Entrance is 1 CUC, extra for a camera and you pay in the small building on the right-hand side when you walk in. They will provide you with a map. On a hot, sunny day, it is cooking in this place but is a change from the hustle-bustle of Havana. Worth a half-day!
La Milagrosa is probably the most famous grave in the Necropolis, where Amelia Goyri de la Hoz was buried in 1901. She died in child birth and her child, who died minutes after her, was buried in her tomb at her feet. The tomb was excavated, for some reason, a while later and the child's body was found in Amelia's arms. People now visit the tomb to pay respects to the "milagrosa" ("the miracle-worker) by laying flowers on the tomb, making a wish and exiting the tomb without turning your back to it. Bouquets of flowers can be purchased for about 1CUC at the market across the street from the Necropolis.
The Chinese cemetery opened its door in late 1800s. It has a Chinese style gate with a Chinese poem on the two sides of the gate. Some of the tombs have dragons and lions statues on them, some have Chinese style columns and designs. A little background of the history of Chinese in Cuba can explain why they have their own cemetery:
Thousands of Chinese went to Cuba in mid-1800s for tough labour works in unbearable conditions on the sugarcane fields. Many of them were tricked or lured, thinking that they would be going to the "Gold Mountain" in San Fransisco.
After the liberations from Spain in late-1800s, many settled in Havana and opened shops and restaurants just outside the city wall. Chinatown flurished for the next 60 years or so, over 100,000 Chinese immigrants were in Havana at the boom. Interracial marriage was common as very few who went to Cuba was woman.
Unfortunately, after Castro went into power in 1959, many left for the US as private businesses were seized. Today, only a few hundreds of the original immigrants remained. This is reflected in the cemetery too as there are some graves that are in bad shapes, some are so old that you cannot see the words any more. Many are afraid that the Chinese heritage will soon be lost in Cuba without immigrations. The good news is that there are some desendents who are still interested to learn the language, art and culture.
The graveyard of Havana is 56 hectares big and gets 40 to 50 new “inhabitants” everyday. This place is huge. During our visit, we could see only a small part of it and we saw several funeral-cars driving through the main gate.
Walk around and explore the luxurious graves and listen to the explanation of a guide, that's quiet interesting when you hear about the symbolic behind the statues and pillars and.... check it for yourself.
The cemetery, located just east of the Plaza de Revolution.
It contains many monumental tombs and mausoleums, chapels and family vaults.
This crying lion hit me !! :)