This post is brought to you by our friends Eric and Shauna… again – as we were not in Cuba during the two weeks that our friends were.
We stepped into the Necropolis Cristóbal Colón after having the suggestion thrown our way by our casa particular host Rosie, along with every other guide book known to man.
What I saw was nothing like I expected.
It was happenstance that the day we decide to look at crypts it was rainy with dark, ominous clouds looming overhead and wind whistling through the crosses that peppered the resting places of Havana’s deceased.
Think of it as visiting an art museum. Replace your French Renaissance Masters with gorgeous, decaying sculptures that should be displayed in the finest exhibitions around the world. The cemetery dates back to the 19th century and it is a shame that the artists’ names have disappeared with time. Nothing about this place seemed creepy – I was lost in the beauty of the art that spread for blocks.
The “who’s who” of Cubans find themselves able to be buried along other greats here. I was lucky enough to stumble upon the grave of my favorite Buena Vista Social Club member, Ibrahim Ferrer. While I did think I would be a little weirded out, all I could do was sit in quiet contemplation while giving my silent thanks for making the music that made me fall in love with Cuba in the first place.
One of the most visited graves is that of “La Milagrosa”. Legend has it that she died during childbirth and her and her baby were buried together. Her husband refused to believe that she was actually dead and every day for many years would knock on her grave three times to see if he could hear her knock back. It is said that when they exhumed the body that she was found intact, and as a symbol of her love, her baby was found in her arms. The tomb was resealed and left in the state that you can find it today.
People from all over Cuba will visit this tomb asking for her help to watch over their children or help with complications. You knock three times, ask for your favor, and walk away, never turning your back on the statue. Thank you plaques can be found all over the tomb from women all over who had finally conceived after visiting her. When we were there we saw two women conduct their sacred rites, and silently walk off. In fear I immediately turned my back to the statue and asked her to please not “bless” me with babies right now.
You can find yourself walking through the cemetery for hours. It is said there are a million tombs so make sure you grab a map to hit the most well known ones. The tombs are plotted out (<—see what I did there? HAR!) on a Disneyland like map to make it a bit easier to find.
But seriously, in the end, this is one hell of a place to go out.