Monday, January 16, 2012


January 9

Christopher Colon Cemetery covers 125 acres, nearly 7% of the city of Havana. One of the three largest cemeteries in the world and among Cuba's most visited sites. Our guide was not only knowledgeable, but also very entertaining. 
A 75-foot high monument to the firefighters who lost their lives to the great fire of May 17, 1890.

Our guide is pointing out the most visited tomb in the cemetery; that of Amelia Goyre de la Hoz, who was eight months pregnant when she died in 1901 at age 24.  She is known as La Milagrosa, or the "Miraculous One," because according to local lore, when she was buried her child was placed at her feet.  Years later, her body was exhumed, and legend has it that the child was found nestled in her arms.  The faithful believe that La Milagrosa looks after them and answers prayers. At her tomb, always adorned with flowers, visitors seeking La Milagrosa's aid perform a ritual by touching the tomb three times, walking around it, while never turning their back to the crypt after making a solemn request.
The principal materials used in the endless pantheons, chapels and vaults are Carrara marble, granite and brass--though Cuban marble was also used.    With more than 800,000 graves, space at the Colon Cemetery is currently at a premium and so after three years the remains are removed from their tombs, boxed, and placed in a storage building.

Our next visit was the Centro Pro Danza.  Founded by Laura Alonso, this dance school serves 850 students. The specialized teaching department was created in 1985 to satisfy the demands for technical and artistic assistance which the Ballet Nacional de Cuba. One of the center's most important programs is Cuballet--a comprehensive and intensive four-five week course, during which the Pro Danza system is applied.

Think Gaudi, Niki de Saint phalle--our next visit was the home of artist Jose Fuster.  Fuster has made a major contribution to rebuilding and decorating the fishing town of Jaimanitas in the outskirts of Havana where he lives.  Jaimanitas is now a unique work of public art where Fuster has decorated over 80 houses with colorful ornate murals and domes--and it is on-going--they were working on new installations while we were there.

A typical Cuban meal is: main course--white rice, black beans, chicken, pork, or fish; salad--shredded cabbage, sliced tomatoes and cucumbers; dessert--flan, ice cream, or pureed fruit.  We had some form of this meal every day we were there.  Depending on the spices used and the method of cooking some meals were better than others, but every meal tasted good.

Tour of Western Havana, including Club Havana, which once was the prestigious Havana Biltmore Yacht & Country Club.  Then a stop in Miramar to see a "model of the city," an intricate miniature replica of Havana.

Not busy in the piano bar today, the help was watching Avatar.

Farewell Dinner at El Gijones.

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