Secret Cuba

Havana's "City of the Dead"

  Inside a crypt               

view in Necropolis    

La Milagrosa grave
Inside one of the crypts of the necropolis another view of some of the graves and statues the tomb of "La Milagrosa"

Havana's most famous cemetery is the Necropolis Cristobal Colon, which translates to English as the "Christopher Columbus City of the Dead". This enormous cemetery is in the Vedado area of the capital. It was founded in 1868 and many famous Cubans are buried there including Maximo Gomez, a hero of Cuban independence. In recent times the cemetery has run out of space for new interrals; thus leading to one of the more gruesome aspects of the Necropolis. When a corpse is interred there now, it may only stay there for two years. At the end of this time, the family of the deceased have to come back to the cemetery and literally, remove the body of their relative. This means that they have to rummage through the grave, picking off the bones from the skeleton; these bones are then placed in a cardboard box, and stored on a shelf in an adjoining building - obviously taking up a lot less space than a complete body. For the family of the dead person, performing this task is incredibly stressful and sad. In the process, they usually remove any personal items - such as wedding-rings - which may have been left on the body, at the time of burial.    

    For many locals, the most famous aspect of the necropolis is the tomb of "La Milagrosa" - literally, the "Miracle-worker". This tomb is the burial place of a woman called Amelia Goyri de Adot, who died on the 3rd of May 1901, during childbirth.  The baby died as well and was buried in his mother's coffin, at her feet. The story has it that some years after Amelia's death, her body was exhumed and found to have remained undecayed. For Catholics, this is usually taken to be a sign of sainthood. It is also said that the body of the baby had moved from it's original position at the mother's feet, and was cradled in her arms.   After this, Amelia's husband had a statue built of her holding the baby boy. Each year, thousands of Cubans come to the necropolis and go through the ritual of touching this statue of "La Milagrosa", while praying for help for some special need.







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