The beautiful and expansive Necropolis Cristobal Colon located in the Vedado district of Havana, Cuba was built by the Spanish architect, Calixto de Loira, in 1871. It’s one of the largest cemeteries in the world (The largest in the Americas) and it’s the final resting place for many of Cuba’s historically and culturally important figures.
The most visited tomb in the cemetery is that of ‘La Milagrosa’ or ‘The Miraculous One’.
Amelia Goyri de Adot and her husband had waited years to get married as they were from different social classes and her family wouldn’t consent to the marriage. That is until after he obtained the rank of Captain in the war and they deemed him worthy enough to marry into their family. Shortly after their marriage she became pregnant, but in her 8th month of pregnancy she developed preeclampsia. And on May 3rd, 1901 Amelia and her unborn baby died.
Her husband, José Vicente, was inconsolable. He was completely and utterly heartbroken. Every morning he would bring her flowers and spend time with her. He would sit and talk to her, tell her how his life was going and knock with one of the four brass knockers to try and wake her up. When it was time to go he would walk away backwards as a sign of respect.
Years later when the grave was opened not only were both bodies discovered to be incorrupt (which Catholic’s believe to be a sign of divine intervention), but the baby was now in its’ mother’s arms.
As this incredible story spread through out Havana the faithful started visiting La Milagrosa’s grave to ask her for help in making their wishes come true. To this day she is revered as a saint to Cubans and many have called for her to be canonized by the Catholic Church. Thousands of people come from near and far to bring her flowers or other gifts and ask for favors.
The tradition is to greet her, knock on the grave with one of the four brass knockers, ask for something, lay down a gift (some coins will do), circle the grave, and walk away backwards never turning your back.
This article in the Radio Rebelde has more info on ‘La Milagrosa’ if you’re interested.