In the colonial city of Cienfuegos, in central Cuba, visitors will find a cemetery full of exquisite statuary. Opened in 1837, Cementerio la Reina is now crumbling in some areas, but is still a magnificent place.
For much of the 19th and 20th-centuries, Cienfuegos was one of the most important sugar-producing areas in Cuba. Many of the people buried in this cemetery were members of wealthy plantation families. Their tombs reveal a great deal of history about the city.
The most outstanding feature of the cemetery by far is the remarkable statuary. One particularly striking example is the monument called “Sleeping Beauty,” a tribute to a 24-year-old woman who some like to say died of a broken heart (though others say she succumbed to a cholera epidemic).
Taking a close look at the graves gives an additional glimpse of the city’s colonial past. Some tombs are marked with the regiment symbols of the Spanish armies that fought unsuccessfully to hold onto Cuba, Spain’s richest colony, in the Cuban War of Independence.
The caretakers also double as guides and provide tours around the cemetery to discuss its rich history.
Know Before You Go
It’s about a 20-minute walk from the center of Cienfuegos to the cemetery on Avenue 50. another option is to take a horse-drawn carriage or a bicycle taxi, both of which you can flag down on any Cienfuegos street.