Tuesday, 16 June 2015

Cuba: Cementerio de Cristobal Colon, Havana

The Cementerio de Cristobal Colon in Havana is considered to be one of the great historical cemeteries of the world.  It is known in English as the Colon Cemetery which makes it sound even more of a curiosity than it is.  The 'Colon' in question is actually Columbus, as in Christopher Columbus.

Cemeteries tell so much about life.  No matter where I go, I find myself wandering amongst the memorials imagining these lives once lived.  I suppose it's a rather chastening experience - the reminder that all life is transitory so why worry about trivia - but it's also intriguing.  Each life is a story to be told, a tiny fragment of a collective history, an imperfectly shaped but colourful tessera that makes up the mosaic.  Havana's cemetery, extending over 140 acres, is jam packed with them.

it is in the Vedado part of Havana.  The easiest way to go there is on the Havana Tourist Bus.  It stops near the main entrance. There is a small entrance fee.  Inside you will find very little shade and, with the sun bouncing off stone and marble, you'll be hot and glad of bottled water, hat and sun cream.

Tempting though it is to highlight memorials and mausoleums, there is so much here that perhaps it makes more sense simply to wander without trying to find other people's recommendations. Whatever you discover will be a piece of personal history.  Here are some that Andrew photographed.

During our several hours of wandering, many funerals took place in the cemetery chapels.  We have read that space is so tight that after three years remains are removed from their tombs, boxed and put into storage which explains the functional building below.
It's a very ugly building so let's finish with beauty!
These wreaths were fantastic, brown paper doughnuts adorned with flowers.  They attracted hummingbirds too.

The cemetery is full of art.  One piece of sculpture caught my eye: a beautiful art deco white marble pieta which, I have since learned, is by Cuba's most famous sculptor, Rita Longa.  it is a piece of sighing simplicity and I'm going to contradict myself and suggest you do seek this one out.  It is on the tomb of the Aguilera family. I cannot believe we don't have a photo of it.  Take a look at a picture that appeared in The Guardian newspaper here  It's right at the bottom of the page which also features other art deco highlights around Havana and comes courtesy of the travel writer and photographer Claire Boobyer.


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