Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Necropolis Cristobal Colon

I thought down here we took death pretty seriously. And, after spending the better part of a day wondering around in the Magnolia Cemetery in Charleston, I realized some folks take it a lot more seriously than the rest of us. Those folks down there made an art (no pun intended) out of one upping their neighbor on who had the grandest tombstone. Actually, they were long past tombstones. They got into statutes, then they got into mausoleums (one with a Tiffany window). But they went from competitive to eccentric when them one of them built a pyramid to honor and store the family's remains. That was hard to beat.

While we were in Cuba we had the chance to visit Necropolis Cristobal Colon, Havana's main cemetery.  It covers 140 acres, has 500 major mausoleums, family chapels, and vaults.

There are 800,000 people buried  and over a million people interred.

Click here for a panoramic view of Necropolis Colon.

There is such a lack of space that the bodies (of the common people) are buried then dug up after three years and the bones put in an osssuary and stored in a storage facility to make room for more. (And, it cost the loved one's family 10 pesos a year for the storage.)

It is located in the Vedado area of Havana, was named for Christopher Columbus, and dates back to 1876.

Notables buried there (whose remains get to lay in peace with grand memorials to their lives) include the pianist from the Buena Vista Social Club, baseball players, national heroes, a United States Congressman, a Roman Catholic Cardinal, the sailors killed on the US Maine (who were later disinterred and brought back to be buried at Arlington), poets, film makers, photographers, military heroes and patriots who struggled for Cuba's independence from Spain, and distraught lovers, to name a few.

The memorials are so grand and the graves so close together is hard to walk among the individual graves. 

The only way to navigate your way through is to follow the lanes that are built and divide the cemetery into small blocks. Here is an old plat of the lanes.

The landscaping of grass, royal palms, and hedges is kept very neat, all by hand labor. The memorials vary from Art Deco to classical to Greek like temples to grand statutes. 

We only just rode through the center and down a lane or two. But it was enough to get a sense of it.

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