If you’re a regular reader of this blog (sure you are!) you know we love cemeteries and couldn’t get enough of our visit to La Recoleta in Buenos Aires. In Havana, we loved wandering around the sprawling Necrópolis Cristóbal Colón, resting place of many an ex-president, dictator, and revolutionary figure as well as countless ordinary folk.
Travel note: if you’re approaching the Necrópolis on foot, check your map to find the closest route to the Calle Zapata entrance – the main entrance. Don’t walk ALL THE WAY AROUND the darned thing in the heat, like we did!
Here are two stories that stood out:
- The miracle of Señora Amelia Goyri and her baby. In 1901, this poor lady died in childbirth and the baby was stillborn. As was the custom, the baby was buried with her, at her feet. Her grief-stricken husband visited her grave several times a day for many years, knocking the iron rings on the tomb (in this cemetery, most of the tombs have these iron rings for hoisting the lid off the crypt) and walking backwards as he left, not wanting to take his eyes off her.
The legend goes that, many years later when the señora’s body was exhumed, it was found to be intact and the baby was in her arms, rather than at her feet. She is now known as La Milagrosa and has a huge cult following of devout Catholics who visit her grave to pray for their own miracles. Before they leave, they knock the iron rings a few times and then walk backwards away from the grave.
In a communist country where religion was initially suppressed, there was something comforting about seeing the Catholic faith alive and well and being practiced in such a moving way. If there’s now some measure of freedom of religion, maybe Cubans will soon enjoy broader freedom of expression in other ways. We can only hope.
- The tragedy of the 25 firefighters. One of the most imposing monuments in the Necrópolis is the Mausoleo de los Bomberos, paying tribute to the 25 firefighters who died in a terrible department store fire in downtown Havana in 1890. Apparently the building owner concealed the fact that he had hidden explosives in the building. When it caught fire the explosives went off, killing many bomberos.
Here are a few more photos from our visit to the Necrópolis.