Christopher Columbus Cemetery
The sun beats down on you as you wander the grounds, the grass well-manicured though there isn’t that much of it to be seen! While marble sculptures of angels, crosses, and Jesus Christ himself tower around you, and a group of restoration workers rests in the shade of a small tree.
Some Cubans bearing flowers shuffle past, the mood both sombre yet festive as people gather to remember and celebrate the lives of their loved ones. Welcome to Christopher Columbus Cemetery, located in the Vedado neighbourhood of Havana.
Often recognised as the most historically and architecturally important cemetery in Latin America. it's a living proof of how in the time when the country used to be a powerful emerging economy, the upper classes competed for building the most spectacular mausoleums. Many of these are the exquisite work of renowned artists and architects, designed with expensive marbles and imposing sculptures.
The Cementerio de Colón, as it’s known in Spanish, is the most important cemetery in Cuba and arguably in the whole of the Americas. Designed by renowned Spanish architect Calixto de Loira y Cardoso, the cemetery grounds were built over the course of nearly fifteen years from 1871 to 1886.
After an expansion in the early 20th century, the cemetery reached its current size of just over 500,000 square metres including sidewalks and numbered streets in addition to the innumerable mausoleums, chapels, vaults and graves. The remains of over one million people are interred in Christopher Columbus Cemetery today.
It is living proof of how the country used to be a powerful emerging economy where the upper classes competed for building the most spectacular mausoleums. Many of these are the exquisite work of renowned architects and are designed with expensive marbles and imposing sculptures.
The cemetery acts as the final resting place for many of Cuba’s most renowned citizens—and others from abroad as well! These include politicians such as the Cuban President José Miguel Gómez, Cuban independence heroes like Candelaria Figueredo, musicians such as Buena Vista Social Club’s Rubén González, athletes like Major League Baseball’s Adolfo Luque, and the list goes on and on…
The Christopher Columbus Cemetery is also home to a number of monuments certainly worth visiting. These include the 23-metre tall monument to the firefighters who lost their lives in Havana’s May 17th, 1890 fire, two monuments to baseball players from the island’s now-defunct Cuban League, and the famous tomb of one Amelia Goire de la Hoz, or “La Milagrosa.”
This woman was buried alongside her child in 1901, and Cuban women now come to her grave to pray for safe and healthy pregnancies, returning with gifts and donations when things go successfully. The popularity of this ritual makes her grave by far the most frequently-visited in the cemetery, and it’s not rare to find a line at certain hours of the day!
Even if you’re not the type of person to generally visit cemeteries when you travel, do yourself a favour and make an exception for this one. Christopher Columbus Cemetery is more than just a resting place for those who have passed on—it’s a living, breathing cultural and historic site on par with the very best in Cuba.
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