Necrópolis Cristóbal Colón is one of the most important cemeteries in the world. And it is said to be second only to Recoleta (Buenos Aires) in importance within Latin America.
El Cementerio de Cristóbal Colón provides an unvarnished glimpse into pre-revolutionary society in Cuba.
I would argue Necrópolis Cristóbal Colón is more important than Recoleta. And that Necrópolis Cristóbal Colón is a must see destination in Havana Cuba. Here’s why.
Necrópolis Cristóbal Colón | Design
Located in the suburb of Vedado in Havana Cuba, Necrópolis Cristóbal Colón covers an area of almost 50 hectares. It has over 800,000 graves and more than 1 million interments. Necrópolis Cristóbal Colón has over 500 mausoleums within its 50 hectares.
The cemetery was first conceived in 1868 at the hight of a cholera outbreak, when a pressing need for more burial sites became evident. What is now La Necrópolis de Cristóbal Colón was built between 1871 and 1886.
Its layout is unique in that each intersection leads directly back to the central cross. With the central cross leading to the cathedral positioned in the centre of the site. Each smaller intersecting street forms a smaller cross, five deep.
Each street within Necrópolis Cristóbal Colón is named to represent a street of the suburb of Vedado in Havana. La Necrópolis de Cristóbal Colón is Vedado in miniature.
Necrópolis Cristóbal Colón | Allocation of Plots
Plots in el Cementerio de Cristóbal Colón were originally allocated based on wealth and class. The more wealthy and influential your family, the bigger and more ornate your families plot became.
Walking through el Cementerio de Cristóbal Colón is an experience in itself. Because you can tell when walking through the site that pre-revolutionary society in Cuba was radically unequal.
There are communal allocations by class, industry, sect and even career. And guilds like masons and legal fraternities stand in for class.
Within Necrópolis Cristóbal Colón you will find allocations to masons guilds, fireman’s guilds or a particular corporations workers. Even legal fraternities stand in for lawyers who didn’t make enough money to be worthy of their own plot.
Perhaps itself admissible as evidence that lawyers do go to heaven.
Necrópolis Cristóbal Colón | Significant Figures
There are many historically significant figures interred at Necrópolis Cristóbal Colón but one in particular stood out to me. That was Carlos Manuel de Céspedes.
On the gate by entry to his mausoleum one finds the inscription ‘por mi no habra derramiento de sangre Cubana ni intervencion extranjera‘. Which translates as ‘for me there will be no shedding of Cuban blood or external intervention’.
Most Americans know about the revolution in 1959. And most Americans believe that everything was hunky dory in Cuba before those nasty revolutionaries. Most Americans even seem to believe that Fulgencio Batista’s government was the rightfully elected government of Cuba.
Necrópolis Cristóbal Colón proves those people wrong.
In the grounds of Necrópolis Cristóbal Colón you will find not only the mausoleum of Cespedes, deposed in the Sergeants Revolt that culminated in the massacre at Hotel Nacional and brought on the 100 days government that gave rise to the Batista regime. You’ll also find the graves of the sergeants who revolted nearby and sometimes alongside, the graves of those who resisted.
Necrópolis Cristóbal Colón | Conclusions
It’s for the reasons above that I personally find it utterly astounding that the Cuban Government hasn’t marked Necrópolis Cristóbal Colón as a site of national significance. And dedicated resources to protecting and preserving it in its entirety. Much like the Argentine Government protects and preserves Recoleta.
Necrópolis Cristóbal Colón is a significant historical landmark that documents and substantiates some of the Cuban Governments own claims to the Revolutions legitimacy. It’s something they should want every tourist to see.
As the site stands today, it’s a crumbling mess. Plagued by deviants seeking to rob graves of remains and valuables.
Accompanying a friend to visit her fathers tomb, she found it too had been chipped open and violated. Which should never occur in a site of such historical significance for a government. Especially a fading revolutionary government that needs every ounce of claim to legitimacy it can get.
Where Can I Get More Information About Cuba?
I’ve made a Cuba Frequently Asked Questions Page (FAQ) available on this website. And I would strongly advise you to read it before travelling to Cuba.
My Cuba FAQ page will save you a lot of time and a significant amount of money on your trip to Cuba. Cuba is not the sort of destination in which you can just arrive unprepared.
Read the Cuba FAQ Page here.