Tomas Acea Cemetery

Cubans and tourists visit this large necropolis in Cienfuegos for many reasons. They admire the architecture of its neo-classical entrance pavilion, learn about local history and wander and reflect among the sun-bleached graves and indigenous trees. The stunning gardens in which graves are set make this a key visitor attraction.

The Tomas Acea Cemetery is one of two Cienfuegos cemeteries, both of which are listed as national monuments. The other is the Queen Cemetery (Cementerio de Reina).The Tomas Acea Cemetery is unique in that it is a both a cemetery and a public garden.

The tombstones, family vaults, niches and statues date from the 19th, 20th and 21st centuries. They feature some particularly striking examples of marble sculpture, such as the Sleeping Beauty (La Bella Durmiente), the subject of a popular local legend.

This cemetery contains many graves of revolutionary heroes, prominent local business people and city dignitaries. The most interesting is the Mausoleum dedicated to the martyrs of the abortive September 1957 Cienfuegos naval uprising against the Batista government. There is also a monument in the cemetery to local men who lost their lives in African conflicts following the Revolution. The cemetery is a place full of fascinating stories which give visitors a real insight into the origins and history of Cienfuegos.

History

The construction of the cemetery was funded by the estate of Mrs. Francisca Garcia Tostes, wealthy widow of Nicholas Cienfuegos Acea y de los Rios, a major sugar magnate and key benefactor of Cienfuegos city. The cemetery is named after their son, Tomás, who died tragically of tuberculosis. It opened on 21 November 1926. Tomás' parents also bequeathed funds in his memory to a local school and children's hospital.

Although originally intended as a resting place for the poor, many wealthy local families have plots here and instructed local artisans to create impressive funerary sculptures of the best Carrera marble, imported from Italy. Set in the magnificent garden, the cemetery has become a grander resting place and visitor attraction than perhaps its founders ever imagined.

The grounds

Rather than the individual graves, however, the casual visitor is more likely to be struck by the beauty of the cemetery grounds as a whole. The necropolis is entered via a large neoclassical pavilion (built in 1926), which is flanked by 64 Doric-style columns. The whole thing was ostentatiously modelled on the Parthenon in Athens. The sun-bleached graves are set in large gardens that provide a restful place to visit and reflect.

In total, the cemetery covers an area of 17.6 hectares (43 acres) and is divided into different sections by avenues lined with different species of trees, such as pine and cypress. These provide the name for each zone.

Access

The cemetery is around 2km (1.2 miles) east of Cienfuegos city centre along Ave. 5 de Septiembre (the date of the naval uprising).

A visit is an essential part of your trip to Cienfuegos, providing vital information for those interested in Cuban history, or a relaxing place to walk and reflect during your stay in the city.


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