Hanging Out in Necropolises can be Cool in Havana, Cuba

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. :)

Necropolis Cristobal Colon

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.

Our ominous day.

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.

Grave Ibrahim Ferrer

Buena Vista Social Club great, Ibrahim Ferrer

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.

One of the plaques found at the tomb (see gallery for picture of La Milagrosa)

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.

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Necropolis Cristobal Colon

La Milagrosa

La Milagrosa

15 Responses to “Hanging Out in Necropolises can be Cool in Havana, Cuba”

  1. Andi of My Beautiful Adventures July 15, 2011 at 5:08 pm #

    I’ve been wanderlusting over Cuba lately! I need to get back desperately. Loved this post and pics!!!

    • Erica July 18, 2011 at 7:18 pm #

      @Andi: Even though we just went (or DIDN’T – ha!) I still miss it every day. Small things – but still. It just haunts you.

  2. Emily July 17, 2011 at 10:51 am #

    So creepy, but beautiful! That story about the woman and her baby is so sad. Though I did read that back in the day, it was hard to tell if people were actually dead! I would love to go to Cuba someday.

    • Erica July 18, 2011 at 7:19 pm #

      @Emily: I had a million pictures from the graveyard but I’ve decided to limit it to only a few pictures in the gallery. I couldn’t believe that I was actually enjoying myself in a graveyard!

    • Juan Roberto March 9, 2014 at 11:19 am #

      I went to Cúba in 20012. Though we visited El Cemetario de Critobal Colon, at that time I didn’t know about La Milagrosa.

      I need to return to visit her.

      • Erica March 20, 2014 at 3:59 pm #

        It was a really neat experience. Please do!

    • Juan Roberto March 20, 2014 at 5:13 pm #

      You should. I need to go back to meet La Milagrosa, the. Miraculous One.

  3. Camels & Chocolate July 17, 2011 at 7:37 pm #

    I’ll be back in Cuba again in December (went with Andi, above, for the first time in 2007). Will have to check into the Necropolis before I go!

    • Erica July 18, 2011 at 7:22 pm #

      @C&C: I’m kinda jealous I’m not going to lie. If money wasn’t an issue we would have stayed for another few weeks. If you do go to the necropolis, I suggest taking a few hours. We had to rush due to the impending rain and I felt as though I missed a lot.

  4. Elsie July 17, 2011 at 11:33 pm #

    Interesting, Cuba was never a place that interests me in the past… maybe I change my mind! Thanks for the post!!!

    • Erica July 18, 2011 at 7:23 pm #

      @Elsie: Thank you Elsie! I didn’t want to go until recently when I realized how close we were to the embargo dropping. I am so glad we had the opportunity.

  5. MUGS July 18, 2011 at 9:11 am #

    GREAT STUFF GUYS! Got 11 months to go till I pop down to Cuba! seems the necropolis is a MUST SEE. What’s the low budget backbacking lifestyle like in CUBA? Heard transport isnt too accesible?:BUEN VIAJE!

    • Erica July 18, 2011 at 7:27 pm #

      @MUGS: Love seeing your “face” poking around here regularly! 11 months! EXCITING! As for the low budget backpacking goodness, I would highly suggest trying to find a buddy to split the cost of a casa particular with you. They are by far your cheapest option costing $20-$30/night for the room – regardless if there is 2 in there. Transport can be a pain in the ass. If your Spanish is good, you can convince people you are a med student at the university and get the local price – 10CUP (~$.40) in a shared taxi. Just say you live there – and be adamant about it. Going between cities is expensive like Mexico. 😛

      • MUGS July 20, 2011 at 4:36 am #

        WICKED Erika! gracias otra vez. I guess I might as well get workin on my cuban accent! “cubolé mi amol”

        • Erica July 20, 2011 at 7:29 pm #

          @MUGS: DO EET! It definitely helps. You don’t even need to know the Cuban accent, just speak well enough to pass as a student…. or try the accent!

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