Tomb Raiding and Wreath Robbing / Rebeca Monzo
Posted on August 29, 2013
The scandal of thefts in cemeteries continues, despite all the
denunciations published inside and outside the island. Of course for
many years here there was a silent complicity by the official press, the
only one accredited in the country. But with the advent of technology
and the access, although greatly restricted, to the social networks,
this seems to have escaped the censors and now, from time to time, an
occasional critical comment appears in local newspapers on this thorny
No longer is it only the Colon Cemetery, perhaps the most looted simply
because it has the most works of art of household value, but also
Baptist, Chinese, and Jewish graveyards have recently been vandalized,
by practitioners of African cults, who use bones of the dead (preferably
unbaptized) as offerings for their "religious" practices, in the face of
the unpunished and easy access to them.
Another phenomenon that occurred since the appearance of the two
currencies — the current Cuban pesos (CUP), in which they pay you wages
and pensions, and the strong pesos (CUC), in which you are forced to pay
for almost everything — is the reappearance at burials of two types of
wreaths: the poor ones, with sparse flowers, unattractive and
mass-produced, with paper tape and letters in purple ink, offered for
CUP, and occasionally in limited supply, depending on time and death;
and the others, for "hard currency," well-made with beautiful imported
flowers, fabric ribbons for the dedication in gold letters, and in
unlimited supply. As a result of this another type of theft began: that
It is sad to think about the people who have made a sacrifice offered to
their deceased friend or family member of one of these beautiful wreaths
acquired in hard currency which, just after the burial is concluded and
the accompanying mourners dispersed, then disappears "as if by magic"
and is offered, in CUC of course, by other unscrupulous mourners, or is
simply dismantled to sell its flowers, to people who already have
pre-established contacts to buy them.
This has led increasingly to seeing fewer floral offerings on the
graves. This type of desecration also may occur at some of the monuments
to heroes in the city, where foreign delegations deposit elegant
wreaths, as recently occurred at the monument to Eloy Alfaro on the
Avenue of the Presidents, between 15th and 17th in Vedado.
Until now, as far as I know, there is no effective measure for stopping
this miserable and criminal practice. Nor do I know of anything having
been returned to the owners, any of the sculptures or large bronze
crucifixes stolen over the past twenty years. My family's burial vault
was plundered; I submitted the complaint, supported with
before-and-after photos, over five years ago, yet the cemetery
authorities have not given me any response.
It is shameful that these activities continue to occur in the 21st
century, practices that seem better suited to the Middle Ages, and which
are perpetrated in the face of the apparent apathy of the authorities,
who have the obligation of ensuring the preservation of our historical
and cultural heritage.
Translated by: Tomás A.
29 August 2013
Source: "Tomb Raiding and Wreath Robbing / Rebeca Monzo | Translating