Educational Programs


Necropolis Cristobal Colon
Vedado, Havana

  Colon Cemetery, Havana, Cuba Colon Cemetery, Havana, Cuba Colon Cemetery, Havana, Cuba Colon Cemetery, Havana, Cuba Colon Cemetery, Havana, Cuba  
  The most interesting destination in Vedado is the Necropolis Cristobal Colon (1868). It is also considered to be one of the greatest historical cemeteries in the world.  
  Colon Cemetery, Havana, CubaColon Cemetery, Havana, CubaBeside the broad expanse of white surfaces, over past lives, reflecting the tropical sun, there is layer after layer of fascination here. There are more than 800,000 graves and 1 million interments at the cemetery: By design, the layout of the cemetery shows the rank and social status of the dead with distinct areas, almost city suburbs: priests, soldiers, brotherhoods, the wealthy, the poor, infants, victims of epidemics, pagans and the condemned. It is a city of the dead. The best preserved and grandest tombs stand on or near these central avenues and their axes.  

Colon Cemetery, Havana, CubaThe layout of the cemetery was created Spanish architect Calixto de Loira. He died before it was completed and became its first occupant.

It is also worth noting that no aspect of the cemetery was expropriated after the 1959 revolution. This means that all of the land is in private hands. But as a consequence of many of the wealthy fleeing the country after the revolution, no family members are in the area to look after the resting place of their ancestor so the elegance and grandeur of general impressions is interrupted by empty tombs and desecrated chapels.Gate, Necropolis Cristobal Colon, Havana, Cuba

Virtues (Faith, Hope and Charity) by sculptor José Vilalta de SaavedraContemporary of Loira, and renown Cuban sculptor José Vilalta de Saavedra created the Virtues (Faith, Hope and Charity) above the a trio of giant Romanesque-Byzantine arches that lead the way into a broad, tree-lined avenue, and the religious relief sculptures around the cemetery walls.

One aspect of the cemetery that makes it so interesting, and hardly gloomy, it is thick with symbolism, history, irony and humor.

  Firefighter's memorial, Colon Cemetery, HavanaFirefighter's memorial, Colon Cemetery, HavanaAngle carries a firefight, Firefighter's memorial, Colon Cemetery, HavanaNo monument represents symbolism any better than the inspired monument for the twenty-seven firefighters who died in the line of duty on 17 May 1890.

At the top, an angle carries a firefight. On the column there are shovels, picks, gaffs, ladders, horns, bell and lanterns. At each corner is a symbolic figure: There is a nun with two pelicans at her feet. A carved portraits of each of the firefighters surround the plinth.

   Firefighter's memorial, Colon Cemetery, Havana  Firefighter's memorial, Colon Cemetery, Havana  Firefighter's memorial, Colon Cemetery, Havana  Firefighter's memorial, Colon Cemetery, Havana Portraits of firefighters, Firefighter's memorial, Colon Cemetery, Havana  
  Tears drip from a chain, Firefighter's memorial, Colon Cemetery, HavanaBats symbolize betrayal, Firefighter's memorial, Colon Cemetery, HavanaBats symbolize betrayal, Firefighter's memorial, Colon Cemetery, HavanaThe chain hung around the monument is dripping with tear drops - one for each fallen firefighter. The bat symbolizes betrayal. One of the reason for the large loss of life is that the firefighters were not told of the gunpowder that was being stored in the building.  
  "La Milagrosa", Colon Cemetery, Havana, Cuba"La Milagrosa", Colon Cemetery, Havana, CubaJosé Vilalta de Saavedra also created the monument at the most visited place in Necropolis Colon, the grave of Amelia Goyri de la Hoz [de Adot], a woman known as "La Milagrosa" ("The Miraculous Woman" or "The Miraculous One"). An upper-class woman, she died in childbirth in 1901 at age 23, and her stillborn son was placed at her feet when she was buried. According to legend, when the grave was opened years later, her corpse was intact – a sign of holiness – and her son was nestled in her arms. Amelia is considered by many to be Cuba's unofficial saint. Cubans come to her grave every day to ask for children or love affairs. Villalta carved the sculpture out of one piece of Carrara marble, and he finished the work in 1902.  
  Union of Employees and Workers of Modern Buses, Colon Cemetery, Havana, CubaUnion of Employees and Workers of Modern Buses, Colon Cemetery, Havana, CubaUnion of Employees and Workers of Modern Buses, Colon Cemetery, Havana, CubaThe details (right) on the memorial for the Sindicato de Empleados y Obreros de Autobuses Modernos (Union of Employees and Workers of Modern Buses) would indicate the members might include traditional teamsters, as well as modern drivers. Other monuments acknowledge telephone workers, merchant sailors, baseball players, dockworkers, and the Workers Society of La Tropical Brewery.  
  Familia Falla Bonet, Colon Cemetery, Havana, CubaChrist, Familia Falla Bonet, Colon Cemetery, Havana, CubaDoor relief, Familia Falla Bonet, Colon Cemetery, Havana, Cuba

This triangular mausoleum  belonging to the Familia Falla Bonet, which features a bronze door on which has been sculpted bearers carrying a casket into a catacomb. The door is flanked by a marble sculpture on each side - "Sorrow" on the left, "Life" on the right. At the apex of the triangle is a bronze Christ that seems to be ascending, pulling the life on Earth heavenward. The figure is the work of the noted Spanish sculptor Mariano Benlliure.

  Copy of Michelangelo's "Pietra", Colon Cemetery, Havana, CubaCopy of Michelangelo's "Pietra", Colon Cemetery, Havana, CubaJust behind the Familia Falla Bonet's mausoleum is another pyramid, introducing an Egyptian element to an already eclectic architectural gumbo of the cemetery. It is said that the owner was fascinated with Egypt and want to be buried in a pyramid.

Copies of Michelangelo's "Pietra" appear a couple of times (right). The artwork depicts the body of Jesus on the lap of his mother Mary after the Crucifixion.

  Both of these monuments have touches turned down. It is a symbol that appears frequently in the cemetery, indicating the end of life.

Another image that is repeated is a truncated columns with a floral wreath that seems to have slid halfway down the shaft, symbolizing a life cut short.

  Luisa V. Antonia, an ardent domino player, grave, Colon Cemetery, HavanaChess Champion Jose Raul Capablanca, grave, Colon Cemetery, HavanaWhen you come to the grave marked with a double three dominos tile, it is the resting place of Luisa V. Antonia, an ardent domino player, who had a fatal heart attack when she misplayed a double-three domino and lost a major game.

Chess Champion Jose Raul Capablanca (1888-1942) is buried, under a white marble chess king. He is considered by many as one of the greatest players of all time, widely renowned for his exceptional endgame skill and speed of play.

  duardo Chibas (1907-1951), grave, Colon Cemetery, HavanaEduardo Chibas (1907-1951) was a Cuban politician who used radio to broadcast his political views. He primarily denounced corruption and gangsterism, rampant during the governments of Ramón Grau and Carlos Prío, which preceded the Batista era. He believed corruption was the most important problem Cuba faced. In August, 1952, had promised to furnish the evidence supporting his claim that education minister Aureliano Sanchez Arango. When the evidence was not provided to him, to make public, Chibás believed that killing himself was the only way he could apologize for his inability to keep his promise. Chibás shot himself during his weekly radio show; however, he had forgotten that his allotted radio time was only 25 minutes. The shot took place while a commercial advert for "Cafe Pilon" was running, thus eliminating the planned effect of "his grand finale".

The whole country grieved his death. His funeral was attended by hundreds of thousands, including a young Fidel Castro.

  There are still a many piece to put together:

ABC monument, Colon Cemetery, Havana, CubaWhy does the monument for the ABC have a Jewish star on it? The also used the star on other materials. ABC was formed in 1931 as a secret anti-government organization. Like most political groups in Cuba, they invoked the name and image of José Marti. By 1933 they had document meetings with the American Ambassador. By the end of October the two most important anti-government elements, the students and the ABC, were openly attacking each other. They don't seem to have had a major role again, but the have a substantive monument at Colon.

  Ricardo Vilalta, Colon Cemetery, Havana, CubaOwl watching, Colon Cemetery, Havana, CubaNear by, the crypt of Ricardo Vilalta looks as if it has been locked as tight as a drum for decades, but over the door is a newly inland stone, carve with "PAX".

At the corner of another mausoleum an owl is watching out.

  Chapel, Colon Cemetery, Havana, CubaChapel, Colon Cemetery, Havana, CubaChapel, Colon Cemetery, Havana, CubaThere is a chapel at the cemetery, but so many people want to be blessed there that they can't provide a full mass for the deceased. At busy times, about every 10 or 15 minutes, a short cortege of vehicles (more often lead by pick-up trucks than a hearse) drives up to the front, the casket is brought inside, accompanied by a few family members and a brief service is held. After this the casket is taken back out, and the process repeats itself.  
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