The Watch

Reina Cemetery

Cienfuegos, Cuba

1998 World Monuments Watch

Much was left for the living to see in this neoclassical cemetery, a poignant example of Cuba's many endangered sites that are far removed from Havana. Reina is novel in that burial niches are aligned vertically in three-story groupings. In addition to these edifices, there is a noteworthy chapel and offices, as well as elaborately wrought vaults and tombstones. Many headstones feature cast iron, marble, and/or slate bas-reliefs. Ornamental cast iron works that surround vaults reveal a high level of local artisanship. Great winged marble sculptures create a skyline within the grounds. Reina was rendered obsolete in 1926 when a newer cemetery opened nearby and today it is used only by families who own plots. Because the grounds are near the shore line, flooding is a regular occurrence; several inches of water are always present in most vaults. The cemetery and its sculpture are being lost to water damage and a general deferral of maintenance. Flood control and reconstruction would once again make this cemetery a better place for the living and the dead.

Since the Watch

Reina Cemetery has been under the care of the Office of the Conservator of the City of Cienfuegos, which has undertaken modest conservation work on the cemetery's unique stacked burial niches and chapel. The Urban Historic Centre of Cienfuegos was added to the World Heritage List in 2005, but Reina Cemetery remained outside the protected zone. The conservation needs of the site remain significant. January 2011

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