Castro's tomb, meant to resemble a kernel of corn, becomes an instant
BY MIMI WHITEFIELD
SANTIAGO DE CUBA
Visitors have been lining up all week to get a look at the tomb, which
consists of a single boulder with a small opening covered by a metal
plaque that says simply "Fidel."
The inspiration for the shape of the tomb was a line from a José Martí
poem: "All the glory of the world fits in a single kernel of corn." Corn
has long been been a foundation of Meso-American cultures and many
indigenous groups in Latin America regarded corn as sacred.
But some Cubans are struggling to see the resemblance of the solid
boulder to a corn kernel and have craned their necks looking at the
stone from one direction and then another.
"I don't like it. It looks like an oven," said one woman. Others see
something akin to a bee hive.
Fidel Castro's tomb has become an instant attraction in this city, the
island's second largest, drawing Cubans and curious foreigners alike.
Following the private funeral of the historic leader of the Cuban
Revolution Sunday, people began lining up outside the closed gates of
Santa Ifigenia Cemetery despite having to walk about a mile from
perimeter blockades that had closed off surrounding roads during the
short early morning service. They were rewarded when guards opened the
gates late Sunday afternoon and they were allowed to file past. A number
of them dropped single roses or sprays of flowers at the foot of the
austere granite tomb.
Cuba's current leader, Raúl Castro, placed a cedar box containing his
brother's ashes in the tomb and the niche was sealed after a ceremony
that included a military band and a 21-gun salute. Castro's death was
announced on Nov. 25 after a lengthy illness, although the cause of his
death hasn't been disclosed.
On Monday morning, five tours buses were parked near the entrance to the
cemetery. Santa Ifigenia is already a tourist attraction because of the
towering mausoleum of 19th Century Cuban independence hero José Martí
and other elaborate statues and tombs of revolutionary and independence
heroes. But the cemetery visitors were all crowded around "la piedra de
Fidel," (Fidel's stone) as some are calling it.
The boulder came from the Sierra Maestra — the stronghold of Castro and
other rebels during their fight to oust Cuban dictator Fulgencio Batista
— according to Granma, the newspaper of Cuba's Communist Party. The
mountain range that figured so prominently in the Cuban Revolution can
be seen on the horizon from Castro's tomb.
An honor guard is posted 24 hours a day and every 30 minutes there is a
changing of the guard in front of the tombs of both Castro and Martí.
Martí's hexagonal mausoleum with a marble walkway was completed in 1951
after a lengthy nationwide campaign to erect a more worthy monument for
the independence hero, who died in 1895.
Cubans, long accustomed to trying to read the political tea leaves in
their country, have studied the placement of Castro's tomb in relation
to Martí's. It stands next to the 85-foot-tall Martí mausoleum but it is
placed ahead of it, closer to the metal entrance gates to the cemetery.
Linking Martí and Castro in death, say some analysts, is an effort to
reinforce the idea that Castro's and Martí's goals for liberating Cuba
were the same.
"In front of José Martí? I wouldn't have expected anything else from the
Cuban government," said Andy Gomez, a Coral Gables-based Cuba scholar.
"You would think he was the one who freed Cuba from all its ills."
The ashes of Raúl Castro's wife, Vilma Espín, also a veteran of the
Sierra Maestra, already reside at the mausoleum of heroes and martyrs of
the Frank País Second Eastern Front. País, urban coordinator for the
26th of July Movement, was killed by Santiago police in 1957.
Although Fidel Castro's tomb was constructed in secrecy over the past
two years or so, there is little mystery about Raúl Castro's final
resting place. His nameplate is already on the mausoleum in the Sierra
Maestra next to Vilma's.
Follow Mimi Whitefield on Twitter: @HeraldMimi
Source: Fidel Castro's tomb is supposed to resemble a kernel of corn |
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