As I walked around Havana, Cuba, I kept thinking that these people are living in the ruins of a beautiful city. It was weird. It was like this was the remnants after a catastrophic event. I have been in many poverty stricken regions around the world, but this was different. Most of the other places consisted of poorly constructed simplistic buildings. These building were once beautiful.
I spent three days walking around Havana and taking one of those hop on hop off buses.
Beautiful Buildings in Ruins
There are hundreds of old buildings in Havana that you could tell were once magnificent structures. I was always imagining what the city must have looked like. I wasn’t the only one. While I was gazing at these buildings I actually bumped into another woman doing the same thing! We were both looking up and admiring what once was.
These are just some of the old buildings I am talking about.
There was some building rehabilitation taking place in the city. It seemed to me these were mostly limited to government and cultural buildings.
New Mall just getting ready to open
Streets of Havana
Perhaps the most picturesque part of Havana are the narrow streets with old cars and the once beautiful buildings.
Hop On Hop Off
I took the Hop On Hop Off bus to get to places a ways away from the core of the historic city. The two places I wanted to see with the buss was Revolution Square and Christopher Columbus Cemetery.
Revolution Square was pretty cool to see.
On the other side of the huge street in the square was a statue of Marti and also the platform where Fidel Castro and others give there speeches. That looked cool and I headed over there.
As I walked up to the platform I was confronted by a military officer who sternly motioned me to leave. I guess that is why no one else was there ha ha
I have always been fascinated with cemeteries. I guess I like the feel of being close to people who once lived. Especially famous people. The other thing I find interesting is that for many, this is their legacy. For that reason elaborate graves are built. The Christopher Columbus cemetery is a good example of people wanting to leave a legacy to show how important they were.
There was one particular grave that everyone stopped at and many leaving flowers. At the time I had no idea why. So I had to google it.
Here is what a Baltimore Sun articles says about it:
Amid the ornate tombs and mausoleums of the Necropolis Cristobal Colon, Havana’s city of the dead, lies the grave of La Milagrosa, a turn-of-the-century woman who died in childbirth, was mourned by a heartbroken husband and is revered by Cubans as their unofficial saint.
La Milagrosa, Spanish for “The Miraculous One,” was in life Amelia Goyri de Adot, who died May 3, 1901, while giving birth to a son. The infant, who also died, was buried in the same coffin as his mother, lying at her feet.
According to the story often told among those who visit her grave at the massive cemetery just blocks from the Plaza of the Revolution, her husband, Eduardo Adot y Lopez, was so grief-stricken that he would visit the grave as many as three times a day. He would leave flowers and knock against the cement burial vault with one of the four brass rings attached to the lid, as if to let her know he was there.
As he left, he would always back away from her grave, so as to gaze on it as long as possible.
According to the legend, Amelia was exhumed years after her burial and her body was discovered to be uncorrupted, a sign Roman Catholics have traditionally interpreted as evidence of sanctity. Moreover, the baby that had been laid at her feet was nestled in her arms.
Her husband commissioned a marble statue of his beloved Amelia leaning against a cross and holding the infant that died with her. Eventually, as the story spread, the lone visitor to Amelia’s grave was joined by a steady stream of pilgrims who saw her as someone who could intercede for them before a distant and unapproachable God.
The popularly acclaimed shrine to La Milagrosa is perhaps the most amazing aspect of this necropolis, founded in 1868, that is filled with the interesting and unusual. It is laid out in a grid with the same street and avenue names of the Havana neighborhood of Vedado, where many of the cemetery’s present residents once resided in life. The cemetery, named after Christopher Columbus, is notable for its ostentatious graves, with acres of angels, saints, cherubs, urns, crosses and statues of faithful dogs dotting the landscape….
But it is the tomb of La Milagrosa that attracts the tour buses and the ordinary Cubans who travel from nearby neighborhoods and from across the country, fervently believing that Amelia will grant what they ask.
“Everybody comes here, whenever we’ve got a problem,” says Gloria Maria Hernandez, who came from her home in Granma, a province in the eastern end of the island, hundreds of miles from Havana. “There’s a belief that she helps us.
For a pilgrim who visits La Milagrosa, there is a precise ritual that must be rigorously followed. Those approaching the tomb, surrounded with a wrought-iron fence, pass on the right side and rap the brass ring several times against its cement lid, just as Amelia’s heartbroken husband did, to summon her.
Gazing at the face of her statue and placing a bouquet of flowers on top of the grave, they circle, stopping to touch the hem of Amelia’s skirt and the leg of her infant son. They circle to the other side, pause once more to rap with the brass rings, and walk backward to continue gazing at the statue, as her husband did.
Each person patiently waits a turn while another goes through the ritual.
Many who visit are mothers like Florentina Abrego of Havana, who came to ask that La Milagrosa grant her daughter a safe and healthy pregnancy. “Until now, she’s granted me everything I ask,” she said. “Look at all the miracles here. Many miracles. Many, many miracles.”
Some of the other sights while I was walking around . . .
Like the bar where Earnest Hemingway use to drink at.
Walking the Malecon
Walking the Paseo de Marti
Castillo de la Real Fuerza
University of Cuba
During the days it would get hot and I would be tired. To get away from it all I found a refuge at the Parque Central Hotel. There I would have a beer and just relax.
I enjoyed my time in Havana but I was also happy to leave. I am sure there is a good reason why the city is like it is. From my limited reading and understanding, it appears Havana has suffered from extremes.
During the Batista era the city was the playground for the rich, famous and mafia. The poor were marginalized and treated like slaves. Many were executed.
Fidel Castro fought against the tyranny of the poor and ousted the rich from their farms and homes. Many fled and many were executed. The poor were now able to live in the houses of the rich.
Of course, without the necessary capital, the city decayed to where it is now.
There exists a complicated history with the US. While waiting for the shuttle one day, a man was asking people if they wanted a taxi. One gentleman and his girlfriend brushed him off. Right away the man started telling me how this guy was an american and they are so rude and arrogant. He couldn’t stand them. He asked another gentleman if he needed a taxi and the gentleman politely said no. The man looked at me and said see, this guy was polite. He isn’t american.
I also saw a bus that has a big sign on it, “End the Embargo, it is Inhumane.”
I was ready to go home- “Mexico” ha ha.