El Cementerio de Cristóbal Colón, or Christopher Columbus Cemetery, is spectacular. Designed by the Spanish architect Calixto de Loira, the cemetery was laid out in 1871 on what were then the outskirts of the city. It reached its zenith in the first half of the twentieth century and now has more than 800,000 burials over its 140 acres.

In the blazing tropical sun, studded with royal palm, topiary, and oleander, Cementerio de Colón is anything but a somber place. More than five hundred major mausoleums represent the range of western architectural design over the last 125 years, with one jaw-dropping piece of sculpture or bas-relief after another. Trees and shrubs and the landscape in general were beautifully maintained, by hand, but as almost everywhere in Cuba, pavement and curbs were broken and deteriorating.