Cementerio De Reina

The most historic cemetery in Cienfuegos is arguably the most historic in Cuba outside of Havana itself. Called the Cementerio de Reina, it opened in 1837 and remains in use today. Besides some incredibly intricate graves and architecture, the cemetery is also notable for holding the remains of Spanish soldiers and for containing some of Cuba's only above-ground graves. Though partially worn down at this point, history buffs and taphophiles alike will enjoy this attraction in Cienfuegos, Cuba.

Cuba’s most famous cemetery is without a doubt Havana’s Cementerio de Cristobal Colon, and for good reason—it’s one of the most historic cemeteries in the Americas, and some might argue in the world! For that reason, another particularly lovely and historic cemetery in Cuba often gets left out of the discussion.

This cemetery is the Cementerio de Reina, located in the southern Cuban city of Cienfuegos.

The Cemetery’s History

Construction on the Cementerio de Reina began in 1836 and was wrapped up on 21st June 1839. Built to replace the cemetery that had been established alongside the city just some twenty years earlier, it quickly became the city’s primary burial ground; especially for rich, aristocratic, or otherwise notable residents.

Construction on cemetery projects continued all throughout the 19th and well into the 20th century. The chapel was originally constructed in 1860 and was restored significantly in 1886 by the original builder’s nephew. Its four iconic columns were added even later, in 1904.

Though the second half of the 20th century wasn’t particularly kind to the Cementerio de Reina, restoration projects began in earnest after the cemetery was declared a national monument in 1990. Though the site still deserves significantly more work, the dilapidation process has for the most part come to a halt and in fact is finally being reversed.

Sites within the Cemetery

Even when an entire afternoon could be solely dedicated to exploring the grounds of the Cementerio de Reina, there are a few spots within the cemetery that are considered “can’t miss” attractions for visitors.

The most notable site is the Bella Durmiente (“Sleeping Beauty”) grave, at the top of which lies a statue erected to commemorate a young woman who supposedly died of a broken heart. This woman was Maria Josefa Alvarez Miro, and she passed away on 16th July 1907 at the young age of 24. The statue is carved in white marble, and most believe it to be the work of an Italian sculptor. Whatever the exact story, the fact of the matter is that it’s a lovely work of art that can still be appreciated today.

Other attributes to note as you explore the cemetery include the graves of Spanish soldiers who died fighting during the Colonial period, as well as the only collection of above-ground graves in Cuba. They were constructed this way due to the high water table in the area, and are completely unique across the island.

Whether you come to explore briefly by yourself or to take a guided tour for the afternoon, a trip to the Cementerio de Reina comes highly recommended during a visit to Cienfuegos. Though not strictly a “must see” attraction compared to some others in the area, it’s sure to delight cemetery enthusiasts and lovers of history in general.

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