Founded in 1876 in the Vedado neighborhood of Havana, Colon cemetery is a beautiful necropolis and a reflection of the turmoil that has plagued the Cuban capital for the past years.
Colon cemetery is one of the great historical necropolis of the world loaded with gorgeous architecture, art and history. What makes this Havana’s city of the dead one of the most important in America is its funerary monuments, chapels, vaults, tombs and mausoleums that create a sort of open-air museum. The varied architectural styles of the graves, from classical to art deco, are a feast for the eyes, and the history of Havana as told through its buried citizens is absolutely fascinating.
Built from 1871 to 1886 by Spanish architect Calixto Arellano de Loira y Cardoso, the symmetrical plan is laid out along two axes suggesting a crucifix, with the most impressive monuments and mausoleums built along the main, tree-lined roads. The ocher-colored, octagonal neo-Byzantine Chapel on the main avenue, was raised in order to host Christopher Columbus‘s ashes who discovered Cuba in 1492.
There’s no doubt that Colon cemetery’s most famous grave is the burial place of Amelia Goyri de Adot, who died in childbirth in 1901. The baby, who also died, was buried at his mother’s feet. According to legend, when the bodies were disinterred to make room for new corpses, the baby had allegedly moved from her feet to her chest. Locals now come and offer their prayers for safe pregnancies and return with flowers and prayers to thank her for a safe birth.
Some of the sculptures and adorments on the tombs are rather impressive. A good example is the white marble replication of The Pietà depicting Jesus Christ and Virgin Mary. There’s another art deco Pietà created by Cuban artist Rita Longa which adorns the black tomb of the prominent Aguilera family.
Not far away, one can easily reach the curious grave of Juana Martín de Martín. She was devoted domino player, who died of heart attack when she misplayed a double-three domino and lost a major game. Today, there’s a marble double-three domino marking her tomb.
It’s also worth admiring the impressive 75-foot monument dedicated to the 18 firefighters who lost their lives in a warehouse fire in 1890. The firefighter’s monument contains significant symbolism. Winged hourglasses, branches of laurel and inverted torches reflect the irreversible nature of earthly life. Another example is the “teardrops” that hang from the chain around the monument.
In the midst of stately tombs styled as miniature Egyptian pyramids, Greco-Roman temples, Renaissance palaces and Art Deco pantheons, one can sense the feeling of forlorn in the air, thus, paying approx $5 entrance fee for visitors feels more like you are providing an endowment, knowing that it will be used for the upkeep of this jewel.